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Ministry Supported Health & Safety Representative Training for Small Businesses

Having clearly defined health and safety directives, as well as a person or group who is responsible for overseeing those directives, is essential for any company to maintain the safety and wellbeing of its personnel.

In Ontario, the Occupational Health and Safety Act provides us with the legal framework and the tools to achieve this goal. It sets out the rights, responsibilities and duties of all parties in the workplace, and workplaces in turn establish specific procedures for dealing with workplace hazards. The OHSA also provides guidance and highlights penalties on enforcing laws around workplace health and safety where compliance has not been achieved voluntarily.

Employers have the greatest responsibility with respect to health and safety in the workplace. That said, all parties, including employers, workers, and other workplace stakeholders, have a role to play to ensure that health and safety requirements are met in the workplace, in compliance with the statutory requirements set out under the Act.

The respective roles and responsibilities for all workplace parties are detailed in the Act. This is the basis for the Internal Responsibility System – a philosophy used to promote health and safety in workplaces across all jurisdictions in Canada.

A Joint Health and Safety Committee Vs a Health & Safety Representative

The Internal Responsibility System dictates that each individual in a workplace, regardless of their standing in that workplace’s organizational structure or hierarchy, is responsible for maintaining the safety of that workplace.

Workers may be supported in maintaining the safety of their organization by the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC), or by a Health and Safety Representative (HSR).

A Joint Health and Safety Committee is composed of worker and employer representatives. JHSCs are required for most workplaces with 20 or more workers regularly employed.

Together, the members of the JHSC should be committed to improving health and safety conditions in the workplace. Committees should identify potential health and safety issues and bring them to the employer’s attention. The committee must also be kept informed of health and safety developments in the workplace by the employer.

A Health and Safety Representative is required in most workplaces with 6 to 19 workers. The role of the HSR is to support health and safety in the workplace.

The Health and Safety Representative (HSR) and the Employer

Employers or constructors must ensure that an HSR is selected in workplaces, including construction projects at which:

  • The number of workers regularly employed is 6 or more
  • No joint health and safety committee is required

An HSR is selected by either:

  • Their fellow workers (excluding managers or those who perform managerial functions)
  • The union, if the workplace is unionized

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, an HSR’s key responsibilities include identifying workplace hazards by regularly inspecting the workplace, and being consulted about (and being present at) the beginning of health and safety related testing at the workplace.

The HSR is also responsible for making recommendations to the employer about possible improvements to health and safety, participating in investigations and inspections related to work refusals or workplace incidents, and obtaining health and safety information from the employer.

In return, employers have a duty to cooperate with the appointed HSR by responding to their recommendations in writing, and providing any information, including written orders and reports, that they have the right to receive. Since the HSR is themself a worker, the employer is also responsible for paying the HSR for their work.

HSR Support for Small Businesses by the Ministry

An HSR appointed by a given company should be trained on how to properly carry out their duties within that workplace. In Ontario, an eLearning basic training program is available to facilitate. The Health and Safety Representative course is available through Fluent Motion’s website.

The eLearning module covers applicable health and safety laws, roles, and responsibilities. It provides an overview of common workplace hazards, as well as information on methodologies for identifying and controlling workplace hazards effectively, and per regulations. Ideally, the eLearning module should be supplemented by training on, and knowledge of, specific hazards present in the workplace where the HSR is appointed.

Training Reimbursement

Eligible small business employers can apply to be reimbursed for the cost of HSR training through the Ontario Small Business Health and Safety Training program.

The program’s reimbursement will cover the $25 course registration fee for the HSR eLearning module, as well as $150 towards the HSR’s training time.

Employers can take the following steps to be reimbursed:

  1. Register your appointed HSR for basic HSR training through a participating training provider.
  2. Have the HSR complete the training and get the certificate of completion.
  3. Apply for reimbursement through the Small Business Health and Safety Training Program application form. Applications can be submitted until July 15, 2024.

Upon review and approval of your application, you should receive reimbursement for the cost of training within 6–8 weeks.

Who is eligible for reimbursement?

To be eligible for reimbursement through the Small Business Health and Safety Training Program, small businesses must:

  • Regularly employ 6 to 19 workers in an Ontario workplace (or be required to have an HSR in other circumstances)
  • Have a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) number
  • Have an appointed HSR complete the basic HSR training course from a participating training provider between July 15, 2021 and March 31, 2024
  • Keep a copy of the certificate of completion

If you’re a small business that requires a safety representative, ensure that you provide your appointed HSR adequate training and information to perform their duties. A well-informed HSR helps create a safer workplace for all workers.

Do you have a newly-appointed HSR in need of training? Fluent Motion offers Ministry-approved Health and Safety Representative training online. Register online today, or contact us for more information.