Although this document references the recommendations of a joint health and safety committee, it also applies to recommendations made by a health and safety representative under section 8(10) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.


This document is intended to:

Provide guidance to joint health and safety committees (JHSCs) in creating effective recommendations;
Assist management in appropriately responding to health and safety recommendations; and
Enhance the Internal Responsibility System by establishing guidelines for creating and responding to health and safety recommendations.

Legal Authority

Occupational Health and Safety Act

Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act provides joint health and safety committees the power to make recommendations to the constructor or employer and requires the constructor or employer to respond to those recommendations within 21 calendar days.

Section 9(18)(b)(c) states:

It is the function of a joint health and safety committee and it has the power to,

  • Make recommendations to the constructor or employer and the workers for the improvement of the health and safety of workers;
  • Recommend to the constructor or employer and the workers the establishment, maintenance and monitoring of programs, measures and procedures respecting the health and safety of workers

Section 9(19.1) states:

If the committee has failed to reach consensus about making recommendations under subsection (18) after attempting in good faith to do so, either co-chair of the committee has the power to make written recommendations to the constructor or employer.

Sections 9(20)(21) states:

  • A constructor or employer who receives written recommendations from a committee or co-chair shall respond in writing within twenty-one days (calendar days).
  • A response of a constructor or employer shall contain a timetable for implementing the recommendations the constructor or employer agrees with and give reasons why the constructor or employer disagrees with any recommendations that the constructor or employer does not accept.

Terms of Reference

Many City joint health and safety committees operate under a Terms of Reference document which has been negotiated and signed off by the City, bargaining units and the Ontario Ministry of Labour. These terms of reference set out operating parameters for the committees, including making recommendations.

Failure by the City to respond to JHSC recommendations, or responses to recommendations that are not acceptable to the JHSC, may be addressed through the Dispute Resolution Process of the Occupational Health and Safety Co-ordinating Committee.

City of Toronto Corporate Occupational Health and Safety Policy

The City of Toronto has established a Corporate Occupational Health and Safety policy in compliance with section 26 (2)(j) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The policy states that the City of Toronto will provide safe and healthy working conditions for all employees in keeping with the legislative requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. To fulfill this commitment, the City will:

  1. Meet or exceed health, safety and ergonomic standards, applying the precautionary principle, as needed;
  2. Recognize the importance of consulting and co-operating with joint health and safety committees and representatives when developing and implementing programs and procedures

What is a JHSC Recommendation?

Making recommendations to improve health and safety is the single most important function of the joint health and safety committee. The importance of clear written recommendations cannot be over-emphasized.

A recommendation is advice or a suggestion to the employer to take a course of action to remedy a health and safety hazard or concern. When possible, recommendations should come from all members of the committee, having reached consensus on the issue. When consensus is not achieved after good faith efforts to do so, either co-chair of the JHSC may make a written recommendation. Recommendations must be in writing.

In order to ensure all parties recognize the document as a Joint Health and Safety Committee recommendation, either consensus recommendation or recommendation of a co-chair, the recommendations should appear on one of the following forms:

  1. JHSC Recommendation Form (see Appendix “A”)
  2. 21 Day Response Letter (see Appendix B”), or
  3. A similar document that includes the following features
    • Clearly identifies it as a JHSC recommendation
    • Provides the date the recommendation was made
    • Clearly outlines the hazard or concern
    • Indicates that management has 21 calendar days to respond
    • Contains the signature of the management and labour co-chair of the committee (if a consensus recommendation) or of one co-chair (if a unilateral recommendation).

Committees are encouraged not to submit recommendations to management using their committee minutes! It is recommended that JHSC’s use one of the forms referenced above. If a committee has many recommendations, a “Recommendation Status Report” (See Appendix “C”) may be useful to track recommendations.

Recommendations, to the extent possible, should be practical and logical, and should address the root cause of the hazard or concern.

Note: Generally, it is accepted that the committee need not make formal recommendations covering every health and safety concern it identifies in the workplace. It is important that committee members do not bypass normal channels of supervision or control.

The primary purpose of this document is to provide guidance in creating and responding to recommendations from a health and safety committee, committee co-chair or health and safety representative. It is recognized that most concerns can be resolved in a more timely fashion by being immediately communicated to the supervisor in charge. The employer may be notified of health and safety hazards or concerns through the following methods.

Workplace Inspection Reports:

Under the Act, the worker members of a JHSC and a health & safety representative have a legal duty to inspect the physical condition of the workplace once a month (refer to JHSC Workplace Inspection Recommended Process). Employees making these inspections will normally use an Inspection Report Form to record the hazards they have identified. A copy of this form is to be given to the management representative at the workplace who has responsibility for taking corrective action. It is expected that management will take action to correct the identified hazards on a priority basis. Uncorrected hazards are reported to the JHSC, which then may make a formal recommendation (consensus or unilateral) to address the outstanding hazard or concern.

JHSC Minutes:

The Act requires the JHSC to keep minutes of its meetings. Currently, many JHSC minutes include recommendations, suggestions or advice the JHSC has made to management. In order to ensure that official JHSC recommendations are not overlooked or misplaced, it is suggested that recommendations of a JHSC appear on one of the forms listed above.

Individual worker concerns:

Sections 28(1)(c) and (d) of the Act state:

  • (c) A worker shall report to his/her employer or supervisor the absence of or defect in any equipment or protective device of which the worker is aware and which may endanger himself, herself or another worker; and
  • (d) A worker shall report to his/her employer or supervisor any contravention of the Act or the regulations or the existence of any hazard of which he/she is aware.

Consensus JHSC recommendations:

When JHSCs, through discussion and consensus, identify actions to address health and safety hazards, a consensus recommendation can be made.

Unilateral JHSC recommendation

If the JHSC cannot reach consensus on a proposed recommendation, either co-chair may submit a recommendation to management.

Creating a Recommendation (JHSC Obligation)

Step 1:

Clearly identify the hazard, problem or concern. To adequately control a hazard, the recommendation must address the “root cause”.

Example of Root Cause:

The JHSC is aware that workers are routinely bypassing the guard on a piece of equipment. The immediate cause is workers bypassing the guard. Immediate solutions could include advising workers not to bypass the guard, retraining and/or discipline. However, to arrive at a recommendation that addresses the root cause, the JHSC must ask:

  • Why are workers bypassing the guard – does the guard make it difficult to operate the machine
  • What workers are bypassing the guard – is it one worker or a group of workers
  • Why doesn’t the supervisor correct the problem
  • How often does the supervisor check-up on workers
  • Can the guard be changed to be more effective, less tamper-proof or less of a nuisance
  • Are workers and supervisors aware of their obligations under the OHSA
  • Do workers and supervisors understand how hazardous this machine is to operate without the guard – do they understand the potential injuries.
  • Is worker and supervisor training adequate
  • When are the workers bypassing the guard – is it after the supervisor leaves the area
  • Do the committee members inspect machine guarding when they do their workplace inspections
  • Is machine safety considered when purchasing new equipment, machines, tools or material

Step 2:

Refer to supporting background information to support your recommendation. This may include:

  • Past incidents, injuries or illnesses which help provide statistical data (available from the Human Resource Occupational Health & Safety Consultant)
  • Injury/illness WSIB costs (available from the Human Resource Occupational Health & Safety Consultant)
  • Number of employees potentially at risk
  • Frequency, severity and duration of exposure to hazard
  • Previous work refusals, work stoppages or grievances related to the hazard or concern
  • Ministry of Labour orders
  • Related legislation including:
    • Provincial and/or federal statues
    • Regulations
    • Municipal by-laws
    • Standards, codes or guidelines
    • City policies or procedures
    • Collective agreement provisions
    • Accepted industry standards/best practices
  • Was the recommendation initiated by or endorsed by City staff including:
    • Safety, Ergonomic or Hygiene Consultants
    • Employee Health and Rehabilitation
    • Public Health
    • Emergency Services
    • Life Safety
    • Security
    • Engineering
    • Legal
  • Copies of documents that provide technical data such as:
    • Technical/Operating manuals
    • Maintenance schedules or logs
    • Manufacturer’s specifications
    • Material Safety Data Sheets
    • Blueprints
  • Comments or recommendations of workers or supervisors in the area affected which provide testimonial data.

Step 3:

Recommend possible solutions. There is often a wealth of experience, training and education among committee members. Sometimes there will be more than one possible solution. In recommending a solution, the committee should consider:

  • How urgent is it that the problem be addressed
  • The potential seriousness of any injury or illness that could result if the problem is left unattended
  • How practical is the solution that is being recommended

If corrective action is urgently required, but practical problems prevent it from being put in place immediately, then short-term or interim actions should be recommended while long-term solutions are investigated.

Step 4:

Set an estimated or actual target date. Each specific action required by the recommendation should have a target date by which it is to be completed. Even though the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires that the employer set out a timetable in its response; by setting target dates in their recommendations, the committee clearly outlines its expectations and enables monitoring of the progress of the recommendation

Without a target date, lack of action can mean the item is always “in progress”.

Step 5:

Present/deliver the completed recommendation to the management person who has the ability to address and follow through on the recommendation. In the event that the JHSC cannot identify who this person is, forward the recommendation to the immediate supervisor of the management co-chair of the JHSC from which the recommendation was made. This person’s can assist the committee in identifying the appropriate individual(s) to address the concerns. S/he is also expected to monitor and track the recommendation and keep the committee informed of its status.

The committee should make itself available should management wish to discuss or clarify the recommendation including alternate solutions.

Step 6:

Monitor action and responses. Do not wait for twenty-one days to elapse before following up. If the JHSC does not receive the manager’s initial confirmation within a reasonable time, it must follow-up.

Responding to a Recommendation (Management Obligation)

Under the Act, management must respond to committee, co-chair or representative recommendations within twenty-one calendar days, whether they agree with it or not. For those recommendations that management agrees with, they must provide a timetable for implementing it. For those recommendations they do not agree with, they must provide reasons why they don’t.

Examples of responses include:

Manager’s Initial Confirmation

When a manager receives a written recommendation from the JHSC, the manager should immediately confirm with the JHSC that they have received it, are reviewing it and will provide a written response. This could be done verbally, via telephone, e-mail or in writing.

Management Agrees with Recommendation

If the receiving manager agrees with the recommendation and it does not require further investigation, the receiving manager should implement the recommendation if s/he has the authority to do so. The manager must submit a written response to the JHSC, providing a timetable for its implementation. The manager’s response may be provided on one of the following:

  • JHSC Recommendation Form
  • 21 Day Response Letter
  • Other written document including inter-office memo or letter

Manager Does Not Have Authority to Implement

If the receiving manager does not have the authority to act on the recommendation, they shall forward it immediately to a designated employer representative who does have the authority. They shall advise this person that this is a recommendation from the JHSC with a deadline to respond. They shall also advise the JHSC that they have forwarded the recommendation to another management staff and advise to whom and when it was forwarded.

NOTE: It is the responsibility of the manager who originally received the response to track it, even though it has been assigned to someone else.

Further Investigation Required

If management believes further investigation is required to evaluate the hazard or concern, or to investigate alternate solutions; management shall advise the JHSC in writing. This response shall include what further investigation is being undertaken and a timetable for completing it. If hygiene monitoring, ergonomic assessments, or other health and safety assessments are conducted, copies of the reports shall be provided to the JHSC.

Corrective Action Requires Work Orders

If management agrees with the recommendation but the corrective action requires a maintenance work order, a work order shall be submitted immediately. The work order shall clearly indicate that the requested work is in response to a JHSC recommendation. Maintenance shall provide a timetable for completing the work. Management shall advise the JHSC that a work order was submitted on such a date with an expected completion on such a date. A copy of the work order shall be provided to the JHSC. Should maintenance have a better or alternate suggestion to correct the hazard or concern, they shall notify the manager originating the request immediately.

Corrective Action Requires Purchasing

If management agrees with the recommendation but the corrective action requires the purchasing of any vehicle, equipment, tools, personal protective equipment, chemicals or furniture; management shall comply with the City Policy for Incorporating Occupational Health, Safety and Ergonomic Principles into the Purchasing Process, including consulting with the JHSC.

Management Disagrees that Hazard Exists

Should management believe there is no hazard, they must provide a written response to the JHSC within the 21 calendar days, explaining clearly how they reached their decision and why it is, in their opinion, not a hazard.

Management Disagrees with Proposed Solution

Should management agree with the JHSC’s identification and assessment of the hazard/concern but disagree with the proposed solution; they must respond in writing to the JHSC, outlining their proposed solution. If there are significant differences in solution, it might be prudent to discuss the issue to be certain each party has an understanding of the hazard.

“No Budget” Response

Should management agree there is a health and safety hazard, a response that states only that the division has no budget to correct it is not acceptable. This response places the manager and City in a position of significant liability including orders, fines and charges under numerous provincial and/or federal statutes including but not limited to:

  • Occupational Health and Safety Act
  • Workplace Safety and Insurance Act
  • Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act
  • Highway Traffic Act
  • Criminal Code
  • Environmental Protection Act
  • Fire Protection and Prevention Act
  • Building Code Act
  • Technical Standards and Safety Act

When a hazard has been clearly identified, the immediate action of the employer must be to assess and control it. When funds are a problem, the goal should be to address immediate hazards with short-term solutions while budgeting for long-term ones. Members of the committee, safety consultants and engineers can assist in developing both short-term and long-term solutions.


There are numerous resources to assist committees and management in creating and responding to recommendations.

Approved by

Occupational Health and Safety Coordinating Committee (OHSCC), October 22, 2002
Reviewed and re-approved by OHSCC, February 13, 2013
OHSCC Reviewed: April 26, 2016

Date Approved

October 22, 2002

Reviewed by OHSCC:

April 26, 2016