Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Health and Safety Corporate Responsibility Enforcement

Many of us have Corporate Responsibility Statements as part of our corporate philosophy, mantras, in our vision, missions and value statements, but do we live up to our corporate responsibilities when it comes to health and safety?

The provincial governments across Canada have or are in the process of redesigning and evaluating their health and safety legislations, compliance mandates and enforcement of legislative requirements. Many provinces such as Ontario and Nova Scotia have recruited new health and safety inspectors with the hope of education and enforcement of compliance, reducing the number of injuries and deaths across their respective provinces. Ontario and Nova Scotia after extensive studies have not only hired many new inspectors but are enforcing new and existing, revised and updated legislative requirements across the provinces; one being the Internal Responsibility System.

What is the Internal Responsibility System or IRS as it is so often called? No, it is not the US Internal Revenue Service we so often here about in the news and in the movies; it is Government Legislated, mandatory across the country with a Health and Safety focus and it is everyone’s corporate responsibility in the workplace.

The important question is; have you heard of it, do you understand your obligations under the IRS, do you know who is responsible under the IRS and therefore are you in compliance? If you answered no to any of these questions, I suggest you continue reading this article; then again, even if you are in compliance – you might find the information to be a helpful guide.

Outlined below are just a few of the definitions of IRS – Internal Responsibility System across Canada. Each province has a slightly different twist on the definition, but all-in-all they are basically stating the same thing – it is everyone’s legal responsibility to ensure workplace health and safety.

The internal responsibility system (IRS) is a health and safety philosophy. It is based on the principle that every individual in the workplace is responsible for health and safety. That includes the CEO, executives, management and workers. Giving workplace parties responsibilities and authority is the driving force of an effective health and safety management system. Ontario WSIB’s definition

The Internal Responsibility System (IRS) is a system, within an organization, where everyone has direct responsibility for health and safety as an essential part of their work. Government of Nova Scotia’s Definition

Internal responsibility system is a phrase often used when referring to the work place and policy health and safety committees or health and safety representative. In reality it goes further, and is actually the collaborative approach taken by an employer and the employees to resolve health and safety concerns in the work place or when performing work activities. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada Definition

The internal responsibility system is an underlying philosophy of the occupational health and safety legislation in all Canadian jurisdictions. The IRS is the very foundation of health and safety in the workplace, establishing workers and employers responsibility for his or her own safety, for the safety of their co-workers and for development of your Health and Safety Management System for your organization. Although the acts and regulations in your province may not impose or prescribe the steps you must take to comply, it holds employers, supervisors and workers responsible for determining the best practice steps for their operation and industry to ensure health and safety of all workers in the workplace.

Across provinces there are similarities in legislative requirements for Occupational Health and Safety; for example, the rights and responsibilities of workers, responsibilities of employers, supervisors, etc. are similar in all the jurisdictions across Canada and in the United States. Occupational Health and Safety legislation and how the laws are enforced however will vary from one province or state to another. It is therefore imperative that you understand your province or state’s legal requirements in compliance with OH&S Legislation in your area.

In developing your IRS processes, procedures and overall Management System, we have provided a few tips to ease the burden using the PDRC Method (Plan, Do, Check & Review):

1. The Planning Stage:
This is the most critical stage in the process. Document all steps in the process development of your Health and Safety Management System (HSMS), Processes and Procedures; always getting the approval of senior management (owner, president or CEO of the company).

2. The Do Stage:
a) During this stage in the process you will establish policy, procedures, protocols and training; establishing timelines, strategy and performance measures.

b) Establish your management system processes, procedures and check systems.
By establishing your HSMS philosophy in everything you do, you will increase productivity, reduce costs and build a sustainable, reliable and cohesive workplace and above all a healthy safe workplace.

3. The Check Stage:
During this stage in the process you will audit/check the system to ensure it is functioning properly: efficiently and effectively.

4. The Review and Change Stage:
The review and change stage creates the cyclical nature of the H&S Management System. It is critical that you review and update procedures, policies, and training; establishing new system procedures with additions and changes to the operations of your business minimally annually but more frequently as changes occur in the organization.

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