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How can I change our safety policies at work?

You have the right to give your ideas about the safety policies at your job.

Health and safety representative

If your workplace has between 6 and 19 workers, it must have a health and safety representative. This is someone who you and the other workers choose. They must be a worker, not a manager.

Their role is to deal with safety issues in the workplace. To do this, they:

  • identify safety problems
  • recommend ways your employer can fix the problems
  • inspect the workplace at least once a month

You can talk to them at any time about safety problems or concerns that you have.

You can also give your ideas to your supervisor.

Joint Health and Safety Committee

If your workplace has 20 or more workers, it must have a Joint Health and Safety Committee.

This committee must have at least 2 people. One person is chosen by the workers and one is chosen by the employer. The person chosen by the workers is your representative on the Joint Health and Safety Committee.

At least 2 members of a Joint Health and Safety Committee must have certification training. This training teaches them about the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and their responsibilities.

Your representative is there to help make sure that your workplace is safe. Talk to your representative about your safety concerns and if you want to:

  • ask for a change in your job's safety policies
  • have more training
  • get different equipment

No representative

If your job has 5 or fewer regular workers, it does not need to have a health and safety representative or a Joint Health and Safety Committee.

You still have the right to help make the safety policies at your work.

If you have any safety concerns at work, you should speak to your supervisor as soon as possible.

You can also speak to your union or trade association, if you have one.

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Understand the role of your health and safety representative or Joint Health and Safety Committee

Both the health and safety representative and Joint Health and Safety Committee must:

  • inspect your workplace for safety issues at least once a month
  • recommend to your employer ways to improve safety
  • get information from your employer about dangerous materials and safety records
  • get information from your employer about safety tests for equipment and materials in the workplace
  • help your employer investigate accidents and injuries
  • respond to your safety complaints or questions

Your health and safety representative or your representative from the Joint Health and Safety Committee can:

  • give you information about health and safety issues in your workplace
  • listen to your ideas for changes in the workplace and pass them on to your employer
  • help you deal with safety issues or help you to work with an inspector from the Ministry of Labour

Choose someone to represent you on safety problems

At least half of the members on your Joint Health and Safety Committee must represent the workers. This means that they're not managers.

And even if a person is not a manager, they can't represent workers if they do any of these jobs:

  • decide whether to discipline workers
  • hire new employees
  • fire people
  • decide whether to promote an employee
  • tell people what to do
  • decide how other workers should do their work

Workers, not managers, choose your health and safety representative or your member on a Joint Health and Safety Committee.

You could pick this person by talking about it at a meeting or by having a vote.

Your employer decides who will represent them. The person they choose should be someone who works at your actual workplace.

Talk to your representative

If you have specific questions about safety problems in your workplace, you can talk to your health and safety representative or a member of your Joint Health and Safety Committee.

If you want to make a complaint, you should make some notes before you meet with them.

Your notes should include details about the problem and list any documents that have information about the problem.

In your notes, try to include answers to the following questions:

  • What happened?
  • When did you notice the problem?
  • What equipment is involved?
  • Who is involved?
  • Have you taken any steps to fix the problem?
  • If you asked your employer about it, what did they say?
  • Why do you think the problem is a danger?
  • What might happen if the problem isn't fixed?

If you have a union or trade association, speak to them first. They'll have someone who can help with your safety problem.

Think about making a complaint to the Ministry of Labour

If your employer is not following the rules in the Ontario Health and Safety Act (OHSA), you can make a complaint to the Ministry of Labour.

The Ministry of Labour sends an inspector to your workplace to look at the situation and see if rules in the OHSA have been broken.

The inspector conducts an investigation where they gather facts and make a decision about the situation. They make a written report of their findings and give a copy of the report to your employer representative and your representative.

An inspector can order your employer to follow the law. If they think that you or other workers are in danger, they can also:

  • order your employer to fix any place, equipment, or thing
  • order that no one can use a piece of equipment until it’s fixed
  • stop the work in your workplace until the safety issue is fixed
  • order everyone to leave a dangerous place until the safety issue is fixed

You can call the Ministry of Labour's Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008 to make a complaint. You can call them any time. You don't have to talk to your supervisor about the problem first.

Your employer is not allowed to punish you for making a complaint. You don't have to tell the Ministry of Labour your name to make a complaint.

If you disagree with the inspector's decision, you can ask the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) to change it. This is called appealing the decision of an inspector.

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Reviewed: 
October, 2015

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