The Canada Labour Code requires each employer to have a health and safety representative for each workplace with fewer than 20 employees.
1. How are the Health & Safety Representatives selected?
Employees of the workplace who do not exercise managerial functions select, from among those employees, the health and safety representative.
If the employees are represented by a trade union, then the union selects the person to be appointed, after consulting any employees who are not in the union.
2. What are the legal powers and duties of a health and safety representative?
The health and safety representative will:
- consider and expeditiously deal with health and safety complaints;
- ensure adequate recordkeeping and regular monitoring of accidents, injuries, health hazards, health and safety complaints;
- meet with the employer as necessary to address health and safety issues;
- participate in the development, implementation and monitoring of programs to prevent hazards in the workplace and that provide for the education of employees in health and safety matters related to those hazards;
- participate in all inquiries, investigations, studies, and inspections pertaining to the health and safety of employees;
- cooperate with health and safety officers/inspectors;
- participate in planning for implementing changes affecting occupational health and safety, including work processes and procedures;
- inspect monthly, all or part of the workplace, so that every part of the workplace is inspected at least once each year;
- participate in the development of health and safety policies and programs;
- assist the employer in investigating and assessing the exposure of employees to hazardous substances;
- participate in developing, implementing and monitoring a program for the provision of personal protective equipment, clothing, devices or materials;
- participate in developing, implementation and monitoring of a workplace violence (including sexual) prevention policy.
A health and safety representative may request from an employer any information necessary to identify existing or potential hazards in the workplace. The representative has full access to all government and employer reports, studies and tests relating to the health and safety of employees. The representative does not have access to medical records of any individual except with the person's consent.
3. Do health and safety representatives receive training?
Yes! The Code, Part II requires the employer to ensure that health and safety representatives receive the necessary training in health and safety and are informed of their responsibilities.
4. Is the employer required to compensate a health and safety representative?
Yes. The employer must pay the representative at the regular rate of pay or premium rate of pay, as specified in a collective agreement or, if there is no collective agreement, in accordance with the employer's policy.
The requirement to compensate health and safety representatives applies to:
- attending meetings or performing any of their other functions; and
- preparation time and traveling as required.
5. What other administrative issues do I need to know about?
First, with respect to liability, no health and safety representative is personally liable for anything done or not done in good faith, under the authority of Part II of the Code.
Secondly, with regard to regulations, the Minister of Labour may make regulations specifying the qualifications and terms of office of a health and safety representative. The Minister may also make a regulation specifying the manner in which a health and safety representative may exercise his/her powers and perform his/her function.
Thirdly, with respect to record-keeping, the health and safety representative must keep records of all matters that come before him or her. They are to be made available to a health and safety officer if requested.