Health and safety officers

HRSDC Labour health and safety officers have the power to do the following:

  • take or remove, for testing, material or equipment if there is no reasonable alternative to doing so (s.141(1)(b));
  • to direct any person not to disturb any place or thing for a reasonable period pending an examination, test, inquiry, investigation or inspection (s.141(1)(g));
  • direct the employer or a worker or a person designated by either of them to accompany the officer while the officer is in the workplace (s.141(1)(j)); and
  • meet with any person in private or, at the request of the person, in the presence of the person's legal counsel or union representative (s.141(1)(k)).
  • issue a direction whether or not the officer is in the workplace at the time the direction is issued (s.141(2)).
  • the health and safety officer has a clear duty to investigate every death of a worker (s.141(4)).
  • health and safety officers must provide the employer and the workplace committee with a copy of the report within ten days after completing a written report on the findings of an inquiry or investigation (s.141(6)).

Heath and Safety Officer inspections

A union member and an employer member of the workplace committee must accompany the health and safety officer when conducting an inspection of the workplace (s.141.1(1)(a)).

The inspection can proceed without them if they choose (s.141.1(2)).

General Matters

No person can prevent a worker from providing information to an appeals officer or a health and safety officer (s.143.1).

No person can enter a workplace that is situated in a worker’s residence without the worker’s permission (s.143.2). This was done to protect the privacy of teleworkers.

Special Safety Measures

Health and safety officers can order an end to any ongoing or recent contravention of any provision of the Code, under section 145(1).

In the past, the health and safety officer had to be present to witness the contravention to issue the direction.

Officers can also order steps to ensure that the contravention does not continue or reoccur (s.145(1)(b)).

Appeals of Decisions and Directions

Appeals officers were formerly called regional safety officers.

Employer, worker or unions can appeal a health and safety officer's direction to an appeals officer within thirty days of the direction being issued or confirmed in writing (s.146(1)).

Appeals officers can not only change, rescind or confirm decisions or directions but also issue any she or he considers appropriate (s.146.1(1)).

As well, appeals officers can:

  • summon witnesses and compel evidence under oath and produce anything the officer considers necessary to decide the matter (s.146.2(a));
  • examine records and make inquiries (s.146.2(d));
  • make a party to the proceeding, at any stage of the proceeding, any person who, or any group that, in the officer’s opinion has substantially the same interest as one of the parties and could be affected by the decision (s.146.2(g));
  • determine the procedure to be followed, while giving an opportunity to the parties to present evidence and make submissions (s.146.2(h));
  • decide any matter without holding an oral hearing (s.146.2(i));
  • set up a conference call or other means of simultaneous multi-party communication (s.146.2(j)).

Appeals officer’s decisions cannot be questioned or reviewed by federal labour boards (s.146.3), nor can their work be limited or reviewed under the Code. (s.146.4).

Both employers and labour representatives have expressed serious concerns on the interpretation of this section.

Both agree the Federal Court has jurisdiction but the appearance of total protection is disturbing and someone who feels the appeals officer made an error may not realize they have an appeal process.

A health and safety appeals officer's decision can only be appealed to the PSLRB or the CIRB if it involves a complaint made under section 133 and 147 and (Complaints When Action against Employees Disciplinary Action).

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February 1, 2012
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