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A joint health and safety committee (JHSC) is a company’s safety ally. Creating an effective JHSC is an important part of occupational injury prevention and, if done correctly, will yield safety benefits, says David Powers, director of health, safety and environment for Oxford Frozen Foods Ltd. in Oxford, Nova Scotia. Powers offered practical tips on how companies can reinvigorate safety committees at the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering’s Professional Development Conference and Exhibition in Halifax on September 18.

“Enthusiasm is one of the things that can be lacking,” Powers says. “If you have an enthusiastic committee, you are halfway there to having an effective committee.”

Legislation puts the onus of creating an internal responsibility system to ensure job safety on employers. Safety committees are mandatory for workplaces with 20 or more employees in most provinces. Different jurisdictions have varying requirements relating to the size of the committee.

The purpose of a JHSC is to increase safety awareness, examine safety issues and recommend policies to reduce or prevent injuries. Its duties include conducting inspections, identifying hazards, investigating incidents, handling complaints and work refusals, resolving safety problems and communicating oh&s messages.

Before an organization starts to build a JHSC, it needs to find out whether other workers know who the committee members are. Do they understand the roles and functions of a JHSC, and how do workers at large perceive the members — are they regarded as advisors, encouragers or enforcers? “If they see them as bothersome and getting in the way,” Powers says, “we need to work at changing that perception.

“T” for training

Having clear terms of reference is the first step in creating an effective JHSC. Terms of reference, which serve as a standard operational procedure, delineate not only the…