The Competent Supervisor
A supervisor is a person that exercises authority over a worker or has charge over a workplace. This power is given to the Supervisor by the Employer. Supervisors play a crucial role within the workplace, especially when it comes to health and safety. The Act makes a big deal about a Supervisor and the requirements of the position, but the Supervisor also plays an integral role in the Internal Responsibility System by being the employer’s sidekick and the worker’s go-to person.
Firstly, people expect a lot from a supervisor, no matter how big or small a workplace is. New and young workers are three times more likely to get hurt or sick on a job. A healthy and safe workplace matters to everyone, and the OHSA expects Supervisors to be the frontline guardians of workers’ health and safety, whether the work is performed on a construction project, in a healthcare facility, an industrial establishment or in a mine.
Secondly, employers are responsible for appointing a supervisor that is competent. Employers must ensure their supervisors are trained in their duties, rights, and responsibilities far beyond the absolute minimum requirements. Not only is competence the law, but a competent supervisor has a far better chance of reaching his workers based on his experience through relating to what the worker is going through.
To ensure a supervisor is competent, the individual must have enough knowledge, training, and experience to organize work and how it must be performed, they must be familiar with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, its regulations and company policy and procedure and be aware of any existing or potential safety hazards in the workplace.
Supervisors have many responsibilities when it comes to health and safety which include:
- Know the OHSA and various Regulations attached to it that apply to the workplace
- Make sure Workers wear the required PPE
- Be aware of the hazards and dangers in the workplace and the areas supervised
- Inform workers of the hazards and dangers in their work
- Plan the work so that it can be done safely
- Use hazard assessment methods to recognize, assess and control hazardous conditions and evaluate the controls to protect workers
- Make sure the workers know and follow through on their health and duties
- Take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of the workers they supervise
Hazard Recognition and Control
Supervisors are responsible for protecting workers. They also must be aware of the hazards and dangers in the workplace and the areas supervised, plan the work so it can be done safely and inform the workers of the hazards and dangers and provide written instructions on how to perform their tasks safely. Supervisors can use different methods to recognize and control hazards in the workplace, including the RACE method, investigations, workplace inspections and observations.
The RACE method involves recognition, assessment, control, and evaluation of the controls. Supervisors may recognize hazards through observations, inspections, worker suggestions and comments and industry standards. Supervisors will then assess the hazard to determine the risk level, which is a combination of the frequency of occurrence and severity if it does occur. Hazards are assessed using major, medium, and minor. Major hazards are highly likely to occur and can cause severe injury or death to workers. These hazards must have procedures in place to control the hazards.
In addition, control methods used by the supervisor in order of effectiveness include eliminating the hazard, reducing the exposure of the hazard and personal protective equipment. Supervisors may use a combination of these measures, but elimination is always the best option. Controls must be evaluated to ensure they are effective.
Supervisors must be a part of the investigation process. This could be in a team, accompanying the Health and Safety Representative and/or Joint Health and Safety Committee. The advantage of having a Supervisor on the investigation team when an incident occurs is that this person is likely to know most about the work and persons involved and the current conditions. The supervisor can usually take immediate remedial action to correct any concerns found immediately. Supervisors can also help bring people together for witness interviews. In most small businesses, the Supervisor is the main investigator of any incidents occurring in the workplace.
A Supervisor is required to spend some time evaluating workers in the workplace. By observing workers in the workplace, a Supervisor can verify the actual working conditions are within the acceptable requirements identified in the health and safety program. This allows Supervisors to confirm the work is being performed safely and all hazards are being controlled effectively.
Typically, these inspections are performed daily and comprise of the following three components:
- Determine if any significant changes have occurred impacting worker safety. Any changes must be identified, communicated, and controlled by the workers before allowing the work to continue.
- Observe workers doing the job to ensure they are maintaining good safe behaviour and following procedures. Any risky behaviour or unsafe working conditions must be corrected immediately.
- Provide positive feedback to the workers. All inspection observations should be documented for reference purposes.
The inspection is a visual assessment of the workplace and workers performing the job. Supervisors when performing inspections need to use the following elements to effectively review the workplace:
- People: Observe the communication process used by the workers. Make sure the work coordination is adequate and workers are not directly exposed to stored or dynamic energy. Look for concerns such as rushing or bypassing safety controls. Verify each worker’s body position to detect any potential for musculoskeletal injuries.
- Procedure: Review whether workers are abiding by the safe operating procedures. Ensure documents such as lock out and tagging procedures are reference and used by workers.
- Equipment: Verify workers are using the right tools and equipment and they have been properly inspected prior to commencing the work. They should be using all necessary safety devices to perform the work.
- Environment: Assess the physical work conditions including high winds, lightning, rain, sun (heat), visibility in the work area, air quality, soil condition and housekeeping.
Report of Refusal to Work
Upon refusing to work or do a specific task, a worker must report the work refusal immediately to their Supervisor. A Supervisor’s responsibility is to investigate and correct the concern. In many cases, proper instruction and information is needed to ensure the worker understands how to perform the task safely. Supervisors can answer questions and concerns and prevent work refusals.
Being a Role Model
Finally, supervisors must also practice what they preach. Supervisors can’t take shortcuts or else workers will take the same shortcuts. Supervisors are responsible for making sure workers comply with health and safety requirements and must be a role model for workers.
Answering questions, being open to conversation and suggestions and complying with the requirements. This means explaining how to work safely and correcting unsafe work situations whenever they arise.
Supervisors are a crucial part of the workplace’s internal responsibility system. This is a very important concept for workplace health and safety. Supervisors must put the Health and Safety Program and policy into action. Furthermore, Supervisors are a valuable resource when trained properly and can perform their duties effectively.
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