Are business owners prepared for a surprise health and safety inspection? Occupational health and safety inspectors enforce the provincial regulations to ensure businesses are compliant and up to date on all policies. But what’s involved in an inspection, and what do employers need to keep in mind to ensure their businesses avoid fines?
Keeping up with so many rules, regulations, and ever-changing legislation can be difficult. Business owners are not lawyers or health and safety experts, they’re specialists in the businesses they run. However, they must not only be prepared for a random inspection but also check for potential hazards in the workplace on a regular basis.
Wendy Irwin, Health & Safety Consultant at BrightHR Canada, shares below what employers need to know about health & safety inspections so they can be best prepared.
Why are workplace inspections so important?
Under the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation in Canada, employers must take all reasonable precautions to ensure the health and safety of their employees. Workplace inspections are meant to help prevent incidents, injuries, and illnesses. These inspections help to identify and record hazards for corrective action to ensure employees in the province are staying safe while working.
If not addressed, there can be immediate and serious consequences, such as injuries, legal action, and fines. All this can be prevented if the right measures are put into place, which makes inspections crucial for any business in any industry.
Are there any legal requirements?
Yes. Employers are required by law to take all reasonable precautions to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of employees, this includes providing a hazard-free workplace for their staff. The OHS legislation also includes specific obligations employers must comply with including regular workplace inspections and compliance with minimum requirements such as regular inspection of emergency equipment, safety equipment, tools, and machinery.
Employers are also obligated to ensure all, or part of the workplace is inspected monthly by a working member of the Joint Health and Safety Committee or by the health and safety representative. Routine inspections help ensure the workplace is compliant and that hazardous conditions are identified.
An example of a specific mandatory provincial Health and Safety legislation right across Canada is the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC). Depending on the number of workers in workplaces, the JHSC must be made up of at least one worker and one employer representative who are certified. The main role of the Committee is to identify, eliminate and mitigate health and safety issues in the workplace and then let the employer know.
What types of hazards should employers be looking for in the workplace?
Hazards are dependent on the type of business and workplace an employer run. The major hazards can be broken down into the following categories:
• Physical hazards are caused by heat, electricity, or radiation.
• Biological hazards such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. • Ergonomic hazards that can cause damage to the human musculoskeletal system. • Chemical hazards such as gas, liquid, or solids. • Safety hazards caused by inadequate machines, unsafe workplace conditions, and unsafe work practices. • Psychosocial hazards that can affect mental health or well-being such as stress, bullying, or violence.
Keep in mind this list isn’t exhaustive, and if a business owner needs any support identifying hazards, they should talk to their staff to help them identify risks or seek out the support of a health and safety expert.
It could be challenging to manage health and safety tasks on top of everything else. But employers can easily manage everyday health and safety tasks by using smart HR and Health & Safety software. Such software will help to keep all policies, hazard assessments, risks, and documentation in one place.
Inspection by Health and Safety Officers
In every province, the government is responsible for enforcing the OHS legislation and appointing health and safety officers. They have the right to come into your workplace for a health and safety inspection. Typically, they will introduce themselves and show identification. They will request to speak to management, they may also want to meet with a member of the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative.
What are the two types of workplace inspection visits?
Proactive visits Unannounced visits are referred to as Proactive Visits. The officer will ask to see documentation related to the Workplace Health and Safety Program. This typically includes the written occupational health and safety policy and the workplace violence and harassment policy, but keep in mind they can ask for any documentation required under the legislation.
Reactive visits Employers must immediately report any critical workplace injury or fatality to the authorities. Complaints may also be submitted to the authorities when an employer is not compliant with the legislation. An officer will then be assigned to respond to the inquiry to investigate the complaint or accident further.
Once the officer has completed the inspection or investigation, they will then determine if the workplace is compliant with OHS regulations and issue an order to comply where necessary. In cases of serious violation or extremely dangerous situations, they may issue a fine or a stop work order while they are onsite.