COMMUNIQUÉ

Service Wide Committee on Occupational Health and Safety

For greater clarity, there is no set date to return to workspaces and this will vary by region, department/agency, individual circumstances and other potential factors. The Service Wide Committee on Occupational Health and Safety (SWOHS) understands telework will remain a primary focus wherever possible; however, the purpose of this document is to provide an overview of a component of the return to workspace process and specific responsibilities.

The SWOHS has recognized that there may be a lack of clarity surrounding the requirement for Workplace Health and Safety Committees and Policy Committees to be meeting during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Concerns have been raised that some Policy and Workplace Health and Safety Committees continue to meet regularly, while others may not meet as often, or at all.

Given the mandate of the SWOHS Committee, the following Communiqué has been developed to assist in better guiding departments/agencies and Policy Committees as well as Workplace Committees to ensure compliance with Part II of the Canada Labour Code, Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (COHSR) as well as the NJC OHS Directive. Departments and agencies are required to hold both Workplace and Policy Committee meetings, and ensure all necessary information is provided to committees and that they are adequately consulted.

Responsibilities and Obligations

The requirement is that departments and agencies are following the aforementioned legislation and regulations. Specifically, Workplace Committees shall meet nine times per year at minimum, while Policy Committees shall meet four times per year at a minimum. Given the current crisis, it is recommended that both Policy and Workplace Committees consider scheduling additional meetings, which can be held over conference call and/or video conference.

Policy Committees shall participate in the development, implementation and monitoring of a program for the prevention of hazards, including the corona virus and COVID-19, in the workplace that also provides for the health and safety education of employees.

In addition, both Workplace and Policy Committees shall participate in all of the inquiries, investigations, studies and inspections pertaining to the health and safety of employees, including any consultations that may be necessary with persons who are professionally or technically qualified to advise the Committee(s) on those matters and shall participate in the implementation and monitoring of a program for the provision of personal protective equipment, clothing, devices or materials. Finally, both Workplace and Policy Committees shall ensure that adequate records are maintained on work exposures, accidents, injuries and health hazards relating to the health and safety of employees and regularly monitor data relating to those exposures, accidents, injuries and hazards during the current pandemic and beyond.

Hazard Assessments

As a reminder, hazard assessments shall be conducted with the participation of the Workplace and/or Policy Committees and should:

In closing, we encourage you to visit the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) that is making all their pandemic planning resources available at no charge. CCOHS has also prepared a series of COVID-19 tip sheets for a variety of workplace sectors, which can be found at no cost here.

In addition, the Labour Program provides guidance related to COVID-19 to federally regulated workplaces.

As for Health Canada’s Public Service Occupational Health Program (PSOHP), it provides information for federal public service employees.

 

[1] Preventive measures 122.2 Preventive measures should consist first of the elimination of hazards, then the reduction of hazards and finally, the provision of personal protective equipment, clothing, devices or materials, all with the goal of ensuring the health and safety of employees.