Establish a health and safety representative
In Nova Scotia, workplaces with between 5 and 19 workers must establish a health and safety representative. This representative must not be a manager or supervisor. Your workers choose someone to represent them.
The health and safety representative is the link through which you and your workers can work together on matters pertaining to health and safety in the workplace.
Tips for establishing and working with your health and safety representative:
Explain the role of a health and safety representative to your workers
The health and safety representative brings worker concerns to managers and business owners on behalf of all the workers. The role also includes:
- cooperating with all workplace parties to identify hazards to health and safety, and to identify effective systems to respond to the hazards Tooltip:The health and safety representative works with the employer on behalf of the workers to ensure all workplace health and safety concerns are addressed appropriately and to the satisfaction of all workplace parties
- cooperating with all workplace parties to ensure compliance with health and safety requirements in the workplaceTooltip:The health and safety representative works collaboratively with workers and the employer to make sure the workplace policies and procedures regarding health and safety meet the requirements outlined in the OHS Act and Regulations.
- receiving all matters and complaints with respect to workplace health and safety—and cooperate with the employer to investigate and promptly address theseTooltip:
A worker is required to report any hazards or workplace health and safety concerns to a supervisor.
If the matter is not resolved to the worker’s satisfaction, the next step would be to report it to the health and safety representative, who will work with them and the employer to have the matter investigated and addressed.
- participating in inspections, inquiries, and investigations concerning health and safety in the workplaceTooltip:
Conducting workplace inspections is the employer’s responsibility. The health and safety representative may participate in the inspections, but is not required to conduct the inspections.
Similarly, any workplace incident investigations are the responsibility of the employer, and the health and safety representative may participate in those investigations.
When an OHS Officer makes an inspection of a workplace, the employer must give the health and safety representative the opportunity to accompany the Officer during the inspection.
The health and safety representative may also observe any workplace occupational health and safety monitoring and sampling.
- advising on individual protective devices, equipment, and clothing that best meet worker requirements, in keeping with the act and regulationsTooltip:The health and safety representative should be familiar with the OHS Act and Regulations, workplace operations and safe work procedures so they can provide informed advice to both workers and the employer when these decisions are being made.
- advising the employer regarding any policy or program required by the act and regulationsTooltip:
The OHS Act requires an employer with 5 or more workers to prepare and review annually a written health and safety policy, and this must be done in consultation with the health and safety representative.
It is important that the health and safety representative be given a real opportunity to provide input into the development of the policy, and any other health and safety related policies and procedures. This means the health and safety representative should be given ample time, information and opportunity to make informed recommendations regarding policy and procedure content.
- recommending improvements to health and safety of persons at the workplace—to the employer, the workers, and any person involvedTooltip:
Where a written recommendation is made and the health and safety representative requests in writing a response to the recommendation, the employer must respond within 21 days indicating either that the recommendation will be accepted (and when it will be implemented) or the reason(s) why the recommendation will not be accepted.
The employer should carefully consider all recommendations made by the health and safety representative for improvements to health and safety at the workplace. If the employer decides not to use or act on the written advice of the health and safety representative, an explanation should be provided.
Ask your workers to pick someone to be their health and safety representative
The following process may be helpful in choosing a representative:
- Arrange a time to meet with your workers as a group.
- Review the role of a health and safety representative.
- Ask your workers to pick someone who is not a manager or supervisor to fill this role.
- The managers and supervisors should leave the room while the other workers make their choice.
- If a leader does not emerge, the workers can each anonymously write their choice on a piece of paper, which would then get collected and counted.
- If the chosen worker feels uncomfortable taking on this role, allow them to decline and ask the next person.
- Ensure the new health and safety representative understands their role
Respond when your representative comes to you with concerns
When you get a recommendation in writing from the health and safety representative, you must respond within 21 days. In your response, you may either accept the recommendation or give reasons for disagreeing with the recommendation.
If it is not reasonably possible for you to give an adequate response within 21 days, you must give a reasonable explanation for the delay within the deadline. In your explanation, you must identify when a response will be provided. You then must provide the response as soon as it is available