Demystifying inspections: A talk with Health & 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 is not unusual that the idea of someone checking up on you may cause stress.  

We want to take some of the mystery out of health and safety inspections. Our Counsellors talked to health and safety officers to clarify some issues you’ve identified. 

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

There are a few reasons an HSO might visit your business;

  • a regularly scheduled inspection,
  • to investigate injuries, or
  • to follow up on 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’re in compliance. As part of their job, they also often make safety presentations to schools and other organizations. 

Workplace inspections are a routine part of doing business. The intention is to ensure the health and safety of your employees. If the inspector notices 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 those infractions corrected. 

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

The reason for this is so that the HSO can get an accurate snapshot of normal workplace conditions. You are required to co-operate with an HSO, according to the Act.

When an officer walks into a business for an inspection there are certain things they will look for. 

  • Are workers are wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment?  
  • Are there are potential hazards that can be identified?  
  • Does the business have the right first aid kit?
  • Is there a first aid provider on shift?

They will also look to see if policies are posted, adopted and implemented.  

The HSOs we talked to advised us that small businesses tend to miss the administrative requirements of the OHS Act. This is where we can really help! We have created an OHS package for each province and territory so you will be able to meet the administrative requirements HSOs look for.  

The officers also wanted to remind you that employers need to have 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 that are accessible through the HSOs and through CFIB’s Counsellors. These monthly inspections need to be documented and the results need to be shared with employees.  

Some other not-so-obvious things that officers regularly observe are:

  • step stools not meeting the required standard,
  • improper lifting techniques,
  • not restocking first aid kits,
  • forgetting the fire extinguisher annual inspection,
  • improper labeling of electrical panels, and
  • storing things in the electrical room… to name a few.

Give us a call so we can review your Occupational Health and Safety Requirements. If an HSO drops by, we want you to be ready and comfortable to have them look around. We can take the guess work out of health and safety compliance and save you time and possible frustration. 

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