The Occupational Health and Safety Act, Ontario’s legal framework for workplace safety, requires that workplaces with 20 or more regular workers on-site have a Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC). This post provides an overview of who should serve on these committees based on best practices and occupational health and safety laws.
Number of JHSC Members
The law in Ontario requires that workplaces with 20 to 49 workers on-site regularly have a Joint Health and Safety Committee with at least two members.
Workplaces with 50 or more regular workers must have at least four members on a JHSC.
Worker Members and Supervisor Members
When there are 40 or more workers regularly employed at the workplace, the Joint Health and Safety Committee must include representatives who are workers (those who do not exercise a managerial function for the employer) and representatives who are supervisors (those who do exercise a managerial function).
At least half of the JHSC members must be workers. The employer is required to select the remaining members from people in a supervisory role at the workplace.
How Worker Members Are Chosen
In a non-unionized workplace, the employees can elect to join the Joint Health and Safety Committee or select members to join. In a unionized workplace, it’s the trade union or union that chooses the worker members.
Members with a Certificate in Health and Safety
At least two members of the Joint Health and Safety Committee must have a certificate in health and safety, obtained by completing health and safety training under an approved training provider. At least one of the two must be a worker and one a supervisor. Once certified, these members must complete refresher training within three years and every subsequent three years to retain their certification.
There is no limit to the number of members who may be certified. Many employers elect to have all members of the JHSC complete health and safety training. However, if there is more than one worker member with certification, the workers must designate one person to exercise the rights and perform the required duties of the certified member.
The Ministry of Labour’s Guide to Health and Safety Committees has more information on these rights and obligations.
Choosing a JHSC Chair
The Occupational Health and Safety Act has no provisions to specify who must chair a Joint Health and Safety Committee. In an editorial for Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine, Dave Rebbitt makes a strong argument for choosing a member who is not a health and safety specialist to chair the committee. Electing to have a specialist run the committee, he argues, marginalizes ordinary workers who have a day-to-day perspective of the site’s operations and whose engagement is crucial in monitoring health and safety at the workplace.