Joint health and safety committee (JHSC) training in Ontario is getting a long-awaited update.
The Ministry of Labour (MOL) is finalizing its mandatory certification training for health and safety committees, to come into effect in early 2015. The last update was in 1996.
“We see joint health and safety committees as the cornerstone of safety in the Occupational Health and Safety Act. They support a strong health and safety culture, and for us, it’s a good reflection of the internal responsibility system,” said Cordelia Clarke Julien, the labour ministry’s director of training and safety programs.
As part of the updated training module, JHSC members will undergo training for at least six standardized hazards specific to their industry. The labour ministry will determine those hazards through consultations held between now and next year.
“It’s a way of standardizing the approach across the province. This way we have consistency,” said Julien. “What the hazards are for the construction sector are obviously very different from what they are in, say, retail.”
Another major change is all JHSC members will undergo mandatory refresher training every three years.
The new training standard only recently came under the jurisdiction of the MOL and the Occupational Health and Safety Act — previously the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board administered it.
The timing for the update couldn’t be better, according to Gerry Culina, manager of general health and safety services at the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, who pointed to a new demographic.
“More and more young people are becoming more and more aware about health and safety and asking questions about it. We have a more informed audience,” he said.
Blended learning — a new trend for JHSCs — uses electronic learning modules for the first time, which provides training for those who didn’t have access to it before.
“It has been so necessary for those remote areas and those with restricted dollars. We can train so many more people that would have never have received training at all. Because it wasn’t the course that was expensive but the travel and accommodation, the time away,” said Culina. “Now, employers are saying, ‘For a small fee, I could get an employee trained.’”
But when management and workers come together, there may be apprehensions and a butting of heads, said Julien. For workers, it is common to be concerned about any possible repercussions or reprisals from management for speaking up about potential hazards. Similarly, management-side representatives could worry about liabilities if they miss a hazard or if an injury occurs on the job.
But by bringing both sides together in a committee, these gaps may be bridged, said Julien.
“Committees are key in that they help build the culture, they help get people in a room together from the various sides and say, ‘Listen, we’re in it together, we’re going to look at this together because all of us want people to go home safe at night.’”
Sabrina Nanji writes for Canadian Safety Reporter, a sister publication of COS.
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