The first thing I asked upon entry into a workplace, in order to perform an inspection or commence an investigation, was who should I speak to with respect to health and safety. Sometimes it was the owner of a small business, a supervisor or, in the case of large corporations, a senior line manager.
This question answers an important fact about the administration and viability of the workplace’s health and safety program. If no-one seemed to know what I was asking, it was usually going to be a long, long day.
But when the workplace parties did know, and after introducing myself I would hand the person a business card. I would then explain the authority under which I was in the workplace i.e. the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In the 11 1/2 years that I was an Inspector I showed my badge twice. Both times, because the workplace parties wanted to see it.
The first questions I asked after determining the numbers of workers in the workplace, and the types of work performed were: “Do you have a copy of the Act in the workplace? Is it posted? ” Often times I would see a dirty outdated copy hung in a shop covered in dust and grime. If the copy was not the most recent I would issue an order and write in my narrative that the copy was dirty; it isn’t written in the ACT that the copy had to be clean, but if I wouldn’t touch it, why would any worker who wanted to review it?
Next I would ask: “do you have a health and safety policy? Is the policy in written form? Is it posted? Have all workers and supervisors been trained and educated in the policy?” I would then ask to observe the policy.
The lack of a policy is one program element that I issued hundreds of orders for, and not reviewing the policy annually I issued hundreds more. Many businesses were not aware that they needed a policy, or if they were, some of them were written years ago, and had not been looked at since.
If you are an employer or worker, be aware that every workplace requires a policy statement. In the case of a workplace with 5 or fewer than 5 workers, a written policy is not required.
Every written policy must be reviewed at least annually. And as a former Inspector, I would want to see a date, and a signature to ensure that there was someone who was accountable for the workplace health and safety program.