The Service Wide Committee on Occupational Health and Safety (SWOHS) met at 9:30 a.m. in Room 718, West Tower, 240 Sparks Street, with Don Graham presiding.

  1. Adoption of the agenda

The agenda was adopted.

  1. Occupational Health and Safety – Environmental Scan – 2016 Survey Results      

I. Arkorful, Senior Program/Policy Analyst, OCHRO, reported to the Committee the results of its OHS Environmental Scan which was aimed at gathering data to assess the performance of departments across the public service with regards to occupational health and safety and analyze the gaps that exist with the intent of setting up a series of recommendations to improve departmental indicators. On January 27, 2017 an email was sent to all departmental OHS Advisors (80 organizations), requesting that they respond to the scan. TBS has received responses from 39 organizations. The survey contained 50 questions and was divided into five (5) different categories: workplace committee and policy committee specific, training, reporting, programs and policies, and general.

The feedback from responding departments was positive overall. The majority of responding departments indicated that they have a Regional and/or Policy Committee in place which is structured in accordance with the requirements in the Canada Labour Code and have Terms of Reference (ToR) which are reviewed annually. Areas requiring improvement include training and reporting. It was noted that some departments lacked required training (i.e. Hazardous Prevention Program, Violence Prevention Training) and that training was being provided by various sources (in-house, outsourced, TBS-OHS).  Departmental procedures for reporting also seemed inconsistent, particularly for reporting violence and mental health situations in the workplace. As a result, the report identifies a need for more centralized training (i.e. CSPS) for all employees, executives and OHS committee members, as well as a review of the reporting mechanisms to streamline the various processes and make it easier to report on various OHS issues. As it is clear some departments are operating better than others, TBS will follow up with departments to facilitate links between those who have robust policies in place with those who require assistance.

The Committee showed interest in having a Department who is excelling in OHS come present their model and best practices.

Finally it was agreed that should members of the Committee have additional questions, they will be sent directly to I. Arkorful.

SWOSH recommendations to TBS (moving forward):

  1. Roles and Responsibilities of SWOHS towards the Mental Health Initiative

The Committee agreed to defer the report from D. St-Jean and C. Ormsby with respect to the results of the 2016 online survey, released by OCHRO, which was intended to assess the effectiveness of the mental health initiative across the Public Service. The Committee hopes to receive an update at its next meeting.

The Committee requested that Sean Ross and D. St-Jean, Co-Chairs of the Centre of Expertise on Mental Health in the Workplace, provide an update with respect to the Centre.  As such, it was recommended that this item be added to the Committee’s September agenda.

  1. Update on BAS Comments – Toward a Public Service Free from Harassment and Sexual Violence

In June 2017, the Committee was consulted with respect to how, within the current environment, the Public Service could be a workplace free from harassment and sexual violence.  At that meeting, the Bargaining Agent Side indicated that it would respond to the Employer’s consultation by providing written comments.

In light of the above, B. Kingston provided the Committee with a document outlining the Bargaining Agent Side’s comments with respect to the government’s initiative Toward a Public Service Free from Harassment and Sexual Violence. The document indicates that given the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision (2015 FCA 273), harassment in the workplace now meets the legal definition of workplace violence and must be dealt with under Part XX of the Canada Labour Code and not under the current public service harassment policy. Under the current policy, employers have an investigative role; however, investigating instances of workplace violence can only be done by a “competent person” as defined in COHSR 20.9(1). While employers and other bodies will undoubtedly have vested interests in the matter (i.e. code of conduct violations, human rights considerations..etc.), any further investigations should be based off the report of the competent person.

In the short term, the redress portion from Part XX of the CLC could be used to update the current public service harassment policy, but the end goal should be a single combined policy for clarity and efficiency.

The current system is severely lacking in terms of training, resources, policies and procedures. The role of Policy Committees will be extremely important in fulfilling these obligations and they should be working very closely with employers to ensure compliance with the Code. In that regard, the BAS has put forth 10 recommendations which could help achieve the desired result. 

While the BAS did express concern that consultation had taken place on the matter outside of the SWOHS Committee, referring to consultation which took place with respect to the Harassment Policy through TBS’ policy reset, D. Graham assured the members that the document is now properly before the Committee and that the appropriate stakeholders are being consulted with a goal to provide input by the end of September.

It was suggested that Ms. Edith Kehoe, TBS provide the Committee with an update on the Policy reset either via teleconference between meetings, or at its next meeting.  

  1. Update on all Communiqués

The NJC Committee Advisor indicated that all Communiqués have been finalized and will be sent to OHS Policy Co-Chairs and Departmental Liaison Officers.  The Communiqués will also be posted on the NJC website as early as next week.

The Communiques will be numbered for easy reference and will go out in the following order:

  1. Creating Links with Departmental/Agency Co-Chairs, 2017-1
  2. Memo from SWOHS to Departments concerning policy committee responsibilities for the management of asbestos, 2017-2
  3. Communiqué on Work Place Violence Investigations and appointing a Competent Person, 2017-3;
  4. Frequently Asked Questions – Work Place Violence Investigations and appointing a competent person, 2017-4;

The Committee has asked that the SWOHS webinar, which took place at the CSPS, regarding Work Place Violence Investigations also be posted on the NJC website.

  1. Mental Health Taskforce- Third Report – Consultation Deck

B. Kingston introduced a draft report from the Joint Taskforce on Mental Health in the Workplace, which is intended to be a step-by-step implementation guide for the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. The Joint Taskforce is requesting the Committee’s comments/feedback on the report by September 8, 2017.

Committee members are asked to review the report and provide their comments to the NJC Committee Advisor by August 8, 2017. The Committee Advisor will combine the input and redistribute a consolidated document which will be discussed over a teleconference scheduled for August 15, 2017.

  1. Asbestos / Amiante (standing item)

The Memo from SWOHS to Departments concerning Policy Committee responsibilities for the management of asbestos has been finalized and will be sent out to the community shortly.

A. Peart raised that the PSPC’s Registry of buildings with asbestos seems to have been recently changed and that some locations were no longer listed, in particular Grosse Île, QC. It was agreed that the TBS representative would look into this matter.

  1. Legionella (standing item)

No update to report.

  1. SWOHS/JEEC Sub-Committee Report – Table-top Exercise – Guarding Minds at Work

N. Huggins, JEEC, Employer Side Co-Chair, provided an update from the Sub-Committee regarding its work on reviewing the Guarding Minds at Work Survey which could be used by Departments/Agencies to assess the psychological health and safety of the workplace. The Sub-Committee’s work was intended to review and address the diversity and inclusion aspect which was found to be lacking. The Sub-Committee has prepared a revised version of the survey questions, short definitions and workplace factors affecting psychological health and safety, which includes a new factor titled “Diversity and Inclusion”.

The SWOHS Committee believes this revised survey will be useful for gathering information across the entire federal public service and has asked that the Sub-Committee continue its work and to review/develop the work sheets that accompany each risk factor. The Committee hopes that these documents will be completed and available for use by the end of September.

  1. Round table
  1. Next Meeting


The meeting was adjourned at 11:25 a.m.