This month, we introduce a new series focusing on occupational health and safety (“OH&S”) issues to help employers ensure health and safety in the workplace and avoid penalties under the Workers’ Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (the “Regulation”).
First, do you have a written Occupational Health & Safety program? The Regulation requires that all employers with a workforce of 50 or more workers, or with 20 or more workers in a workplace with a high or moderate risk of injury must have a written OH&S Program. (You can find out your workplace’s assigned hazard ratings here.) When investigating a workplace safety incident, one of the primary considerations WorkSafeBC takes into account when deciding whether to levy a penalty against an employer is whether the employer has an OH&S Program that conforms to all the requirements of the Regulation.
OH&S Programs must be generally designed to prevent injuries and occupational diseases, and must include the following provisions:
- a statement of the employer’s aims and the responsibilities of each of the employer, supervisor and workers;
- regular inspections of the workplace, equipment, and work practices at appropriate intervals, so that hazardous conditions are promptly identified and corrected;
- written instructions on safe work practices to supplement the Regulation which are available for reference by all workers;
- periodic management meetings to review health and safety activities, incidents and trends, and to determine necessary courses of action;
- prompt investigation of OH&S incidents to determine how to prevent their recurrence;
- maintenance of records and statistics, including inspection reports and incident investigation reports, and how this information will be provided to the Joint Health and Safety Committee or Health and Safety representative (as applicable); and
- instruction and supervision of workers on how to perform their work safely.
For workforces with less than 50 workers (or less than 20 workers in a moderate or high risk of workplace), employers are not required to have a written OH&S Program with the above provisions. Instead, employers must have a less formal program in place, involving monthly meetings with workers to discuss health and safety matters and correct unsafe conditions, and keep records of the meetings.
To make sure that your business is fully compliant with the Act and Regulation, we recommend that you regularly review your OH&S Program, at least annually, and ensure it is up-to-date whenever changes are made.