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Developing Occupational Health and Safety Policies and Programs

In May 2001, a number of amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act were proclaimed. One important amendment, effective January 1, 2002, requires employers with ten or more employees to establish and maintain a written health and safety program, and for employers with less than ten employees to establish and maintain a written health and safety policy. Specific regulations outlining the required elements of an occupational health and safety policy and program were approved by government in December 2001, and are reproduced below.

Safety Policy Definition

A health and safety policy is a written statement by an employer stating the company's commitment for the protection of the health and safety of employees and to the public. It is an endorsed commitment by management to its employees regarding their health and safety.

Details on the elements of an occupational health and safety policy are outlined in the attached Regulations.

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Safety Program Definition

A health and safety program contains the health and safety elements of an organization, objectives which make it possible for the company to achieve its goal in the protection of its workers at the workplace.

Section 4.(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations specify the minimum requirements to be contained in a health and safety program. Some of the requirements specified in the regulation may not be applicable to every workplace. However, each employer should carry out their own health and safety risk assessment, in consultation with the occupational health and safety committee, to determine what hazards are present at the workplace. Once the hazards have been identified, controls for exposure to these hazards should be detailed in the health and safety program.

Details of the required elements of an occupational health and safety program are outlined in the attached regulations.

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Reasons for Health and Safety Programs or Policies in the Workplace

There are several reasons why workplaces need a health and safety policy or program, including:

  • to clearly demonstrate management's full commitment to their employee's health and safety;
  • to show employees that safety performance and business performance are compatible;
  • to clearly state the company's safety beliefs, principles, objectives, strategies and processes to build buy-in through all levels of the company;
  • to clearly outline employer and employee accountability and responsibility for workplace health and safety;
  • to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act; and
  • to set out safe work practices and procedures to be followed to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.

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Rules for the Application of Health and Safety policies and Programs

The Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations applies to all employers, workers, and self-employed persons. Employers with less than ten employees will be required to have an occupational health and safety policy in place while employers with ten or more employees will be required to have an occupational health and safety program in place.

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How to Develop a Health and Safety Policy or Program

The development of a health and safety policy or program is the responsibility of the employer. However, for such a policy or program to be accepted and successful it will need the commitment and endorsement of the workers. Therefore, it is critical to involve the workers in the early stages when developing a policy or program. This would include, but not be limited to, the workers' health and safety representative or the occupational health and safety committee.

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Deadline for Compliance with the New Regulations

The requirements for the establishment of an occupational health and safety policy or programs come into effect on January 1, 2002. Occupational Health and Safety Officers will be conducting inspections to ensure such policies/programs are in place. Where the employer has not yet established a policy/program, officers will be issuing orders (directives) to ensure compliance. These orders will require the establishment of a policy within 30 days or a program within 90 days of the issuance of the order.

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Requirements for Policy or Program Review and/or Revisions

The legislation stipulates that the health and safety policy is to be reviewed annually, and where required, updated in consultation with the workers' health and safety representative. The policy should also be reviewed and revised whenever there is an operational or organizational change.

The legislation stipulates that the health and safety program is to be reviewed and revised at least every three years. In addition, a review is required to be undertaken whenever there is a change of circumstances that may affect the health and safety of workers, or where an officer makes such a request. The review of the program should be done in consultation with the occupational health and safety committee.

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Copying Someone Else's Health and Safety program

Section 36.1 of the Act stipulates that an employer is required to establish and maintain an occupational health and safety program at the workplace. Should you copy someone else's health and safety program, you wouldn't be in compliance with section 36.1 of the Act because you have not established a safety program that would be applicable to your workplace. A health and safety program must address the hazards that are present in your workplace, as a program developed or designed for another workplace may not accommodate the hazards present in another.

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Health and Safety Policy and Program Training

Access to health and safety policy and/or program training is available through the majority of health and safety consultants within the province or through health and safety consultants of the other Atlantic provinces. A listing of health and safety consultants in Newfoundland and the Atlantic provinces can be accessed through the provincial Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission opens new window. Additionally, the Prevention Services Department of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission of Newfoundland can also assist employers and workers in the development of their health and safety programs. For assistance:

Prevention Services

(709) 778-1552
Toll free: 1-800-563-9000

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More Information

Employers can obtain further information on the new regulations by contacting:

Occupational Health and Safety Inspections Division

Department of Labour
Toll free 1-800-563-5471

There are a number of links on the Wide World Web where you can obtain further information on occupational health and safety policies or programs. Besides those already mentioned, further information may be obtained through the following web sites: Government of Nova Scotia opens new window, New Brunswick Workplace Health and Safety Compensation Commission opens new window, Ontario's Ministry of Labour opens new windowor through the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safetyopens new window. Also, by conducting a search on the internet for health and safety policy or programs' you should be able to find other links on the internet that will provide further information on health and safety policies and/or programs.

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New Regulations and Existing Health Programs and Policies

If your company already has an effective written occupational health and safety policy or program in place, the new regulation may not require any further action. If your company is one that has a positive attitude toward its employees' health and safety, but has not formally recorded this commitment, the new regulation can provide an avenue for improving your occupational health and safety policy or program at your workplace. Should your company not have a health and safety policy or program in place, the new regulation will require you to establish, implement and maintain a health and safety policy or program.

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Examples of Health and Safety Policies

Many organizations such as Occupational Health and Safety Branches, Workers' Health, Safety and Compensation Boards, and safety consultants provide good examples of a health and safety policy. For your convenience, the provincial Workers' Health, Safety and Compensation Commission has provided a sample of a health and safety policy below. This is for your viewing and assistance in developing your own health and safety policy. The workers' health and safety representative or the occupational health and safety committees should be consulted when establishing your health and safety policy or programs.

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Sample Health and Safety Policy Statement

February 7, 2002

Management of (organization name) is vitally interested in its employees' health and safety. Our objective is to protect our workers from injury and illness.

(Organization name), as the employer, is ultimately responsible for worker health and safety.

I, (organization president/CEO etc.) of (organization name) am personally committed to taking every reasonable precaution for the protection of all workers. To fulfill this commitment (organization name) will make every effort to provide and maintain a safe and healthy workplace by adhering to acceptable industry standards and complying with occupational health and safety legislation. In keeping with occupational health and safety legislation, a healthy and safe workplace will be accomplished in consultation and cooperation with management and employees, in particular the worker health and safety representative.

Supervisors will be held accountable for the health and safety of workers under their supervision. Responsibility includes ensuring that machinery and equipment are safe and that work practices are in compliance with established legislation, workplace practices and procedures. To protect their health and safety, workers must receive adequate specific work task training.

Every employee must protect his/her health and safety and the health and safety of other workers by working in compliance with legislation and established workplace practices and procedures.

Contractors will be required to operate according to legislative requirements using best practices and following (organization name) policies and procedures regarding health and safety.

Health and safety is an integral part of this organization's every day business. It is in the best interest of all to join together and put into practice health and safety principles in all work activities.

This policy will be reviewed on an annual basis and revised as necessary.

Signed:______________________ (Company president, CEO, etc.)

Date: _______________________

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New Occupational Health and Safety Regulations

Occupational Health and Safety Program

4. (1) An occupational health and safety program required under section 36.1 of the Act shall be signed by the employer and by the person or persons responsible for the management of the employer's operations in the province and shall include:

  • a statement of the employer's commitment to cooperate with the occupational health and safety committees and workers in the workplace in carrying out their collective responsibility for occupational health and safety;
  • a statement of the respective responsibilities of the employer, supervisors, the occupational health and safety committees and workers in carrying out their collective responsibility for occupational health and safety;
  • procedures to identify the need for and for the preparation of, written work procedures to implement health and safety practices, including practices required by the Act and the regulations, or by order of an officer;
  • a plan for orienting and training workers and supervisors in workplace and job-specific safe work practices, plans, policies and procedures, including for emergency response, that are necessary to eliminate, reduce or control hazards;
  • provision for establishing and operating an occupational health and safety committees, including
    • maintenance of membership records
    • procedural rules
    • access for the committee to management staff with the authority to resolve health and safety issues and to access information about the employer's operations required under the Act and the regulations, and
    • a plan for training committee members as required under the Act.
  • a plan for training committee members as required under the Act.
    • evaluation and monitoring of the workplace to identify potential hazards and the associated risks,
    • procedures and schedules for regular inspections by management and committee members
    • procedures for the identification, reporting and control or correction of hazards,
    • procedures for the prompt investigation of hazardous occurrences to determine the cause of the occurrence and the actions necessary to prevent a recurrence,
    • identification of the circumstances where the employer is required to report hazards to the committee and the procedures for doing so, and
    • measures for the accountability of persons responsible for the reporting and correction of hazards;
  • a plan for the control of biological and chemical substances handled, used, stored, produced or disposed of at the workplace and where appropriate, the monitoring of the work environment to ensure the health and safety of workers and other persons at or near the workplace;
  • a system to ensure that persons contracted by the employer or for the employer's benefit comply with the program developed under this section and the Act and regulations;
  • an emergency response plan;
  • maintenance of records and statistics, including occupational health and safety committees minutes, reports of occupational health and safety inspections and investigations, with procedures to allow access to them by persons entitled to receive them under the Act; and
  • provision for monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of the program.

(2) An employer that is required to establish and maintain an occupational health and safety program under section 36.1 of the Act shall

  • implement the occupational health and safety program; and
  • review and, where necessary, revise the occupational health and safety program
    • at least every 3 years,
    • where there is a change of circumstances that may affect the health and safety of workers, and
    • where an officer requests a review.

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Occupational Health and Safety Policy

4.1 (1) An occupational health and safety policy required under section 36.2 of the Act shall be signed by the employer and by the person or persons responsible for the management of the employer's operations in the province, and shall contain a statement of the employer's commitment to occupational health and safety that includes:

  • a statement of the employer's commitment to cooperate with the worker health and safety representative and workers in the workplace in carrying out their collective responsibility for occupational health and safety; and
  • a statement of the respective responsibilities of the employer, supervisors, the worker health and safety representative and other workers in carrying out their collective responsibility for occupational health and safety.

(2) An employer that is required to establish and maintain an occupational health and safety policy under section 36.2 of the Act shall review and, where necessary, update the policy at least annually, in consultation with the worker health and safety representative.

For a complete copy of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its Regulations please contact:

Office of the Queen's Printer

(709) 729-3649
729-3210

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