Demystifying Inspections: Interview with Health and Safety Officers

Business owners like you work hard to create a healthy and safe work environment, but there’s a long list of compliance requirements. It’s not uncommon for the thought of someone watching you to cause stress.

We want to demystify health and safety inspections. Our advisors have spoken to health and safety officers to clarify some issues you have identified.

Health and Safety Officers (HSOs), or Compliance Officers, are there to ensure that minimum legal health and safety standards are met.

There are several reasons why an ASS may visit your company;

  • a regularly scheduled inspection,
  • investigate injuries, or
  • to respond to a health and safety complaint.

Education is another component of a health and safety officer’s job. HSOs are there to help you access available resources to ensure you are in compliance. As part of their job, they also often give presentations on safety in schools and other organizations.

Workplace inspections are part of the routine of doing business. The intention is to ensure the health and safety of your employees. If the inspector notices that the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act or any of its regulations are not being met, an officer has the authority to write orders to have these violations corrected.

Generally, a visit from an HSA should be unexpected. In other words, they don’t take appointments! The law gives HSOs broad powers to enter a workplace during working hours without notice to conduct an inspection or investigation.

The reason is that the HSO can get an accurate snapshot of normal working conditions. You are required to cooperate with an HSA, in accordance with the law.

When an officer walks into a business for an inspection, they are looking for certain things.

  • Are workers wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment?
  • Are there potential hazards that can be identified?
  • Does the company have the right first aid kit?
  • Is there a lifeguard on duty?

They will also check whether the policies are posted, adopted and implemented.

The HSOs we spoke to informed us that small businesses tend not to comply with the administrative requirements of the OHS Act. This is where we can really help you! We have created an OHS kit for each province and territory so that you can meet the administrative requirements sought by HSOs.

The officers also wanted to remind you that employers must conduct a monthly internal inspection of their workplace. This can be done by an appointed health and safety representative or a member of your health and safety committee using checklists accessible through CFIB HSOs and advisors. These monthly inspections should be documented and the results should be shared with employees.

Here are some other not-so-obvious things that agents regularly observe:

  • stepladders that do not meet the required standard,
  • improper lifting techniques,
  • not restocking first aid kits,
  • forgetting the annual fire extinguisher check,
  • poor labeling of electrical panels, and
  • store things in the electrical room… to name a few.

Call us so we can review your occupational health and safety requirements. If an ASS walks by, we want you to be ready and comfortable for them to look around. We can take the guesswork out of health and safety compliance and save you time and possible frustration.

We would like to thank the HSOs who participated in answering our questions so that we can share this information with you.


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Susan W. Lloyd