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Posted by on Apr 2016 in All Stories, Features, Member Support | 0 comments

Are you prepared to meet your health and safety responsibilities?

Fire alarmWhether your organization has two staff members or two hundred, every employer is required by law to put certain protections in place for the health and safety of their employees.

Larger housing providers may benefit from having the expertise of dedicated human resources and health and safety professionals on staff, but in smaller organizations everyone from property managers, board members, facilities managers and maintenance staff has a role to play in meeting the organization’s health and safety responsibilities.

Being on top of organizational health and safety means expecting the unexpected, and being prepared to react appropriately to any scenario. For example, do you know what steps you and your organization should take if:

  • A staff member or contractor suffers a serious injury on your property?
  • You receive a written recommendation from your health and safety committee concerning a potential health and/or safety hazard to your employees?
  • One or more employees exercise their right to refuse unsafe work?
  • One of your staff experiences workplace violence or harassment?

Even for the most seasoned human resources professional, it can be challenging to keep a cool head while managing health and safety emergencies, which require quick thinking under pressure. In these instances, having an up-to-date and comprehensive health and safety policy in place can make a world of difference. In an emergency, it will become your most trusted resource, and potentially even a life-saving one.

It’s time to review your health and safety policy

Your health and safety policy should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure it meets legislative requirements and the needs of your organization. A good health and safety policy should cover these key areas:

  • Policy statement: Detailing your organization’s commitment to health and safety, and to complying with relevant legislation.
  • Responsibilities: Everyone has a role to play in protecting health and safety. Your policy should clearly outline the specific expectations and responsibilities of senior management, supervisors, staff, constructors and contractors, and health and safety representatives or committees.
  • Training and orientation: What processes and expectations are in place to orient new staff and educate existing staff on your organizations health and safety procedures?
  • First aid: Where are first aid kits located and what should they include? Who is qualified to administer first aid treatment, and where/how will this information be made available?
  • Prevention and promotion: What steps are being taken to promote overall workplace health and safety and to prevent workplace incidents and injuries?
  • Inspections and reporting: How and how often will health and safety inspections take place, and what will they cover? What is the process for reporting (and responding to) potential hazards?
  • Communication: How will you keep your staff informed, and how will you communicate to address and respond to formal complaints or concerns?
  • Accidents, Injuries and Incidents: What is the process for responding to, reporting and following up on / investigating workplace accidents, injuries or other incidents? In the case of a workplace injury, what are the immediate steps for responding to critical versus minor injuries?

Get a head start on your policies

Developing a comprehensive health and safety policy takes time. It also requires a detailed understanding of current legislation, human resources and health and safety best practices, and how these apply to the non-profit housing environment.

If you need to create a policy, or update a new one, a good place to start is with ONPHA’s recently released Human Resources Handbook. This guide draws on the detailed knowledge of legal experts, human resources consultants, and health and safety advisors to address the specific needs of Ontario’s non-profit housing providers. Updated to reflect current legislation and emerging sector trends, the handbook can help with:

  • Navigating legislation and meeting your legal requirements
  • Setting policies and procedures for your workplace
  • Meeting your health and safety responsibilities
  • Managing day-to-day or unexpected HR scenarios, from recruitment and performance management to handling resignations and terminations


Once you have updated your health and safety policy, ensure your staff are aware of any changes. Keep the policy somewhere that’s easy to find and let your employees know who they should speak to if they have any questions about it. Engaging your staff early about their role and responsibilities can prevent misunderstandings during and following emergency situations.

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