Changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and revised regulations take effect on December 1, 2021. Read more about the changes to OHS laws.
A health and safety program is a coordinated system of procedures and processes used to improve occupational health and safety and prevent injury and illness in the workplace.
Employers, workers and other work site parties are responsible for their own health and safety, as well as that of everyone at or near the work site.
The program encourages people to be aware of their roles and responsibilities and to work together to identify and solve health and safety concerns. It is recommended that the joint health and safety committee (HSC) be consulted in the development of the program.
Work site requirements
Employers with 20 or more regularly employed workers must have a health and safety program.
For employers with multiple work sites, the total number of workers at all work sites count towards the 20 workers.
Employers with fewer than 20 regularly employed workers are not required to have a program, but must have documentation in place that meets the requirements established by the OHS legislation. This includes assessment and control of workplace hazards and an emergency response plan. The employer must involve affected workers and it is recommended that they consult the health and safety representative, if there is one.
Multiple employers at one work site
Employers are required to do what is reasonably practicable to protect the health and safety of all persons on or near the work site, including workers who work for other employers. Also, employers are required to cooperate with anyone “exercising a duty” under the OHS legislation. For multiple-employer work sites, these 2 requirements result in an obligation for employers to coordinate their health and safety systems to ensure that everyone is protected.
If there are multiple employers at a work site and a prime contractor exists, the prime contractor has a duty to:
- Establish a system to ensure cooperation between workers and employers on health and safety matters.
- Designate an individual responsible for ensuring that workers and employers cooperate and implement the system to ensure the duties of an HSC/HSR are performed (though they do not need to establish an HSC/HSR to perform these duties).
Under OHS legislation, there are no mandatory elements for the health and safety program. Employers have the flexibility to develop programs that best suit their workplace. Mandatory requirements within OHS legislation, including hazard assessment, health and safety committees and worker training, can be part of a health and safety program
Guidance on foundational elements that can help form a program can be found in Health and safety programs.
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