After the employer, supervisors have the greatest legal responsibility for the health and safety of workers. A debate about who is a supervisor, however, continues.
Supervisor is defined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act
) as “a person who has charge of a workplace or authority over a worker [s. 1, the Act
].” In a recent publication, the Ministry of Labour (MOL) seeks to add clarity to this definition to help workplace parties and the MOL decide which individuals are supervisors under the Act
. They explain:
"charge of a workplace" refers to broad control over the planning of work and how it is carried out, while
"authority over a worker" can be seen as a more specific power to ensure a worker's compliance with directions.
They go on to explain a workplace party having either charge of a workplace, or authority over a worker, is sufficient for a person to be recognized as a supervisor. Though, the supervisor must have sufficient authority to carry out the legally mandated duties listed in section 27 of the Act
These supervisor duties as well as powers that are primary indicators that a person is performing a supervisory role are outlined in this MOL publication entitled “Who is a supervisor under the Occupational Health and Safety Act?
” Also provided are workplace examples of who may or may not be considered a supervisor along with recent related court decisions.
Employers have many obligations relating to persons they assign as supervisors including ensuring awareness training is completed within one week of beginning work as a supervisor.
And Ministry of Labour inspectors continue to visit workplaces to confirm compliance. For instance, they issued almost 1,100 orders during the six month period ending January 18, 2015 calling on employers to ensure supervisors complete the health and safety awareness training program mentioned above.
The law also requires employers to appoint a competent person as a supervisor [s. 25(2)(c), the Act
]. This is defined in the Act
as a person who:
is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance,
is familiar with this Act and the regulations that apply to the work, and
has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace (s. 1, the Act).
Many employers have turned to the Workers Health & Safety Centre (WHSC) to help seek compliance with supervisor awareness and competency training requirements. Equally important, these same employers trust that WHSC training will go beyond legal minimums, will ensure learning and will help prepare supervisors to meet their many workplace obligations as they relate to the protection of a worker.
Want to read the MOL’s publication “Who is a supervisor under the Occupational Health and Safety Act?”
Want to know more about WHSC supervisor training?
Want additional information about how the WHSC can help your workplace comply with the extensive training obligations mandated by health and safety law?