March 29, 2021
Do I need a Safety Manual?
We often get questions along the lines of “Do I need a Health and Safety Manual” or “What advantages will a solid Health and Safety Program give me?”.
There is a three part answer to this.
- To meet legislation
- To meet set standards such as COR/SCOR that will give business advantages
- To reduce incidents thereby reducing WCB rates and exposure to penalties
Let’s start with legislation. In Alberta, employers with 20 or more workers are required to have a health and safety program established in the workplace. Development has to be done in consultation with the joint worksite health and safety committee or representative if there is one present.
Employers with less than 20 workers are not required to have a program but are still responsible to ensure that documentation is in place that meets OHS legislation. This can be difficult to achieve without a formal program, or at least without a solid background on OHS legislation.
For a safety program to meet legislation, it is required to have the following elements:
- health and safety policy
- hazard assessment and control
- emergency response plan
- statement of OHS responsibilities of the employer, supervisors and workers at a work site
- schedule and procedures for work site inspections
- procedures for when another employer or self-employed person is working at the work site
- health and safety orientation and training for workers and supervisors
- procedures for investigating incidents, injuries and refusals to work
- procedures for worker participation in work site health and safety, including inspections and investigating incidents, injuries and refusals to work
- procedures for reviewing and revising the health and safety program
Keep in mind that this is just the minimum, there may be other items required based on your industry and specific legislation that applies to it.
COR / SECOR
Some employers may want to qualify for a Certificate of Recognition (COR) or a Small Employer certificate of Recognition (SECOR). The two certificates are similar, but the SECOR is only available to organizations with 10 employees or less. Achieving this qualification shows that the employers H&S Management System exceeds basic legislative requirements and has been audited by an outside agency. Fun Fact: Over half of COR’s issued in Alberta are from the Alberta Construction Safety Association.
Having a safety system designed to meet COR/SECOR standards has a number of advantages over a system designed for basic compliance:
- It may allow a company to bid on contracts that they would not be able to otherwise. Many organizations required COR/SECOR to be placed on their bid list or consider COR/SECOR to be a competitive advantage.
- The higher standards required by COR/SECOR should result in lowered risks and workplace incidents
- Having a COR/SECOR may qualify your company for WCB Partnership in Industry Reduction Refunds.
Reduction of Incidents
This is the goal of any safety management system. A good quality safety system should result in increased safety performance and fewer incidents leading to savings in terms of WCB rates, property damage, repairs, and downtime of critical equipment. There are some important considerations though. To be effective a program has to be:
- Driven by management. What is important to you is important to your employees. Always send the right message
- Simple and Pragmatic: Nothing kills a safety program more quickly than complicated, hard to achieve standards. The best safety programs are simple and well executed.
- Well Understood: Never send your safety program out into the world without considering training. Your people need to be walked through the system and need to understand its intent and value it. Just handing out a safety manual binder is a sure recipe for failure.
Need a Safety Management system/manual? You have options:
- You can talk to your industry’s Construction Safety Association. They may have courses and templates to help you. The Alberta Construction Safety Association has a great series of courses including Principles of Health and Safety Management (PHSM) which will teach you how to design a basic system. You should also have a look at Leadership for Safety Excellence (LSE) which will give you some tools to lead safety in your organization. Great for Superintendents and foremen as well! I have nothing but good to say about the ACSA, I have taken their courses and was on their Board of Directors for several years and still recommend their resources
- You can have a safety system designed by an outside agency or consultant. Do your homework and choose carefully. Pick someone with good recommendations and high integrity. I would recommend you choose someone who will spend some time getting to know your organization and its needs as opposed to purchasing a generic manual. Look for someone who will also offer to do an initial roll out and training for your people!