Are you aware that Occupational Health and Safety officers have the authority to enter your workplace to conduct an inspection? Every employer must comply with the requirements of your provincial OHS legislation. These items are in place to help prevent incidents, injuries and illnesses from happening in the workplace.
Occupational health and safety officers usually come unannounced to perform an inspection. An OHS officer will help identify and record hazards for corrective actions through a critical examination of the workplace. Activities you can expect to see during an inspection may include any of the following:
- Taking measurements, samples, photos, and recordings
- Conducting tests and inspecting equipment
- Consulting technical experts
- Talking with workers on site
- Asking for documentation and copies of training records, policies, procedures, and other H&S documents
As an employer, you don't want any surprises during an inspection. Here is what you need to know and can expect if an inspection were to happen within your workplace. We know how perplexing the legislation can be for employers. We recommend that you use this guide as a reference and checklist to ensure you are compliant with your provincial OHS legislation.
Occupational Health & Safety Inspections
OHS officers do not need a warrant to inspect your workplace (unless the workplace is within a private dwelling). Inspections may be carried out for several reasons, such as investigating workplace complaints, an incident reported, or regular proactive inspections.
Officers may ask the employer and a health and safety representative to accompany them on the inspection. It is essential to accompany them on the inspection to discuss, observe and properly understand any areas of non-compliance throughout the workplace walk-through. If necessary, the officer will identify contraventions and issue orders.
The officer will then provide a report with documentation on the findings from the inspection. It will include orders the officer is issuing (if any) and the corrective actions necessary to be compliant. You will have a deadline to complete the corrections, and it is best practice to correct any observed issues immediately. If an officer believes a worksite is unhealthy or unsafe, they have the right to issue compliance orders, stop use orders, and stop-work orders, where appropriate. If the employer has any questions or concerns, this would be the time to address them.
Occupational Health & Safety Manual
Employers are required to have a health and safety program in effect within the workplace after a certain number of employees has been reached (as determined by your provincial legislation, usually 5+ employees). All employers have a duty to establish and commit to complying with all applicable OHS legal requirements. Employers are to monitor the policy's effectiveness, and ensure that the policy program is documented, posted, and communicated. Your OHS manual helps effectively promote your OHS program by clearly communicating policies and your promise to protect the health and safety of employees.
Every employee should receive a copy of the occupational health and safety manual and sign the manual to acknowledge they have reviewed and understood the OHS program. Management is responsible for updating the manual under provincial OHS legislation regularly.
Accidents and incidents must be reported in accordance with your provincial OHS legislation requirements. An investigation by the immediate supervisor/manager must take place within 48 hours. The investigation should include viewing the scene of the accident/incident and filling out the appropriate report forms. You are required by law to submit the employer report of injury forms to your provincial OHS authority within a province specified time after the discovery of an injury or illness.
The accident report should state all necessary information of the injured employee, the nature of the injury/accident, and information on the determined cause- along with a list of corrective actions that will be taken to prevent reoccurrence. Additional forms are to be filled out and submitted if the injured worker requires medical attention and/or has lost time at work due to the incident.
In the case of an injury in the workplace, the supervisor must complete any required accident report form. If it is possible to do so, the injured employee must fill out an accident report form (and any witnesses to the accident should also complete the accident report form in order to provide more information for further investigative purposes). In that case, the supervisor must complete and submit the Employers Report of Accident form (Form 7). The injured worker completes the Worker's Report of Accident form (Form 6). The attending Physician will complete the Physician's report.
Exposure Response Plan
Occupational illness can look the same as other illnesses or diseases. When exposed to something that could affect your health at work, sometimes the effects are sudden and pronounced. Other times, the effects might take months or years to develop.
This is where exposure control plans are required and vital. Provincial Occupational Health and Safety Regulations state that employers with occupational exposure to a biological agent must develop and implement an exposure-response plan.
Each plan developed must be specific to an identified hazard. The exposure control plan must include responsibilities, risk identification assessment, control procedures, education, training, written procedures, and record-keeping.
Emergency Response Plan
Emergencies in the workplace can sometimes be inevitable. Developing a plan is a necessary process that employers must support. Having a well-organized emergency response plan will help eliminate the urgent need for rapid decisions and lack of resources during the chaos of emergencies. Your emergency plan will provide guidance and specify procedures during an emergency to prevent and reduce the overall damage, injuries, and possible severe losses.
Your emergency plan needs to include:
- All possible emergencies and consequences.
- Required actions, written procedures, and the resources available.
- Detailed lists of emergency response personnel with their duties, responsibilities and contact information.
- Floor plans.
- Large scale maps showing evacuation routes and service conduits.
Completing a comprehensive plan for handling emergencies is a significant step toward preventing disasters. The emergency response plan should be reviewed at least annually or when changes occur in office layout, processes, materials used, and/or key personnel changes. The plan should be tested by conducting exercises and drills to practice the procedure's critical position and identify problems within the plan.
Effective Workplace Inspections
Regular workplace inspections are an essential part of the overall occupational health and safety program. Workplace inspections will help prevent and reduce hazards. During the inspection, you are examining items that are most likely to develop into unsafe or unhealthy conditions.
There are several types of inspection reports, such as ongoing inspections, pre-operation, and periodic inspections. A checklist helps clarify the inspection responsibilities, inspection activities, and information on the examination.
A customized checklist for your workplace is recommended to meet all the key areas. Generally, an office inspection checklist contains the main areas listed below. Every checklist/inspection report must be signed and dated by the inspector.
- Bulletin Boards and Signs
- Floors, Stairways, and Aisles
- Emergency Equipment
- Air Handling System
- Hazardous Products
- Material Storage
- Required Posted Documentation
Several documents are required by provincial Occupational Health and Safety legislation that must be posted on your H&S bulletin. The bulletin board should be consciously posted in a high traffic area for all employees to see and access the information posted. Each jurisdiction requires specific information to be posted.
Ensure you have all the necessary information published on your H&S bulletin board (i.e., safety representative information, meeting minutes, Copy of WCB poster if applicable). It is essential to keep your H&S bulletin up to date; this is one of the first things an OHS officer will check during an inspection. They will also be sure to confirm that your OHS acceptance letter regarding recapping needles (Alberta specific) or other provincial specific requirements are posted and a policy has been put in place.
Staying compliant with the Occupational Health and Safety legislation for your region is essential for your business. Understanding the legislation can be overwhelming and time-consuming. As you see, there are many components within the realm of Occupational Health & Safety to understand and implement within your business.
At Stream Dental HR, we are here to help you build your Health & Safety program so that you can have confidence and ease that your health and safety program will contain all of the essential and required components. We understand that getting inspected by an OHS officer can be intimidating and concerning. Our Health and & Safety experts are here to guide you through the necessary steps to get your business OHS compliant.