When asked to identify a potential workplace hazard and the severity of its risk, eager health and safety representatives and JHSC members are quick to point out the various sources at their workplaces that can cause injury or illness.

From life-threatening exposures to electrical energy found in circuit-breakers and switches, to poor housekeeping and maintenance that could result in unpredicted injuries as a result of slips, trips, and falls; potential hazards are often easily identified and fixed on the spot, but that is not the health and safety representative’s primary responsibility.

Practice routine workplace inspections

An effective workplace inspection not only identifies the “what” and the “how”, but it most importantly ponders the question “why”. Why has there been no system placed to minimize or control the electrical hazard? Why do the workers choose to remove the guards off of the sawing machinery? Eliminating or controlling a hazard during or immediately following a workplace inspection fails to take into account the presence of an indirect contributor or cause of the hazard.

Are there financial restrictions on the employer that prevent them from effectively providing or establishing prescribed hazard controls? Is there a lack of commitment on the part of management to support and foster a positive health and safety culture in the workplace? Are there group norms and attitudes that foster unhealthy and unsafe work practices? An effective JHSC analyzes hazards, their contributors, and their probable secondary causes while making effective and reasonable recommendations to their employers.

Drafting, solidifying, and reviewing a robust workplace health and safety policy is the cornerstone of proactive and effective health and safety management.