Joint Health and Safety Committees invited to self-assess effectiveness

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By Donna Mayer

An electronic assessment tool created in the wake of the SARS crisis to measure the effectiveness of Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSC) is being tested for use in the construction sector.

The Centre for Research Expertise in Occupational Disease (CREOD) developed the JHSC Assessment eTool with the assistance of a panel of occupational health and safety experts based on a framework from the healthcare sector.

Concern regarding the functioning and effectiveness of JHSCs in Ontario hospitals was raised following the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003.

“The critical discussion started after SARS where the Campbell Commission reported that hospital JHSCs were “sidelined” during the crisis and essentially did not fulfill their mandate,” says Arlinda Ruco, research associate with CREOD.

CREOD is testing the JHSC Assessment eTool in the construction sector and is looking for participants to fully test it.

The tool was designed to support JHSCs in self-directed assessment and goal setting. It is intended to highlight JHSC strengths as well as identify areas for improvement. It is not intended to be a compliance audit.

“The tool was tested within the healthcare and education sector with favourable results”, says Ruco. “However, we don’t know whether the tool is useful and relevant to the construction sector.”

Usability of the tool was scored high overall in the healthcare sector study. The findings demonstrated that the tool was easy to use, effective in supporting discussion and in assisting participants in reaching consensus.

The assessment tool was designed to be completed by JHSC members as a group to promote discussion and reflection on the features of a gold standard for JHSCs and foster the development and effectiveness of JHSCs.

The tool asks committees approximately 20 questions covering different areas including approachability, representation, commitment, communication with workforce, support and resources, formal written recommendations, education and training, mandate and objectives, JHSC activities, and visibility and leadership. On average, it takes about an hour for a JHSC to complete the assessment.

Once the assessment is complete, a report is generated that can be downloaded, saved and printed. In order to protect privacy, the online tool does not save data in its system.

The assessment results highlight whether the committee is meeting best practices or whether there is some room for improvement. A list of proposed action items is also generated, with room for the JHSC to identify the top three priorities to form an action plan.

The report also includes best practices and provides links to online resources that offer both guidance and legal references.

The assessment tool is already available for use and can be accessed for free on the CREOD website.

“Feel free to go online and go through the tool yourself or play around with it”, says Ruco. It takes about 15 minutes to complete the assessment on your own.

CREOD is looking for five more JHSCs to participate in the study. A $50 gift card will be provided to all committees as a thank you for their time. ​Five JHSCs in the construction sector have already completed the study.

The study will inform whether the current JHSC Assessment Tool is feasible and usable for use across construction sector workplaces to enhance committee effectiveness.

“If it isn’t found to be feasible and usable, a construction-specific version can be considered,” says Ruco.

Participating in the study will include completing the JHSC Assessment Tool as a group during a regularly scheduled JHSC meeting. Each participating JHSC member will then complete a short online usability survey on the functionality, content and value of the tool.

All study results will be presented in aggregate summary form with no individual or workplace identifying information.

​​To participate in the study contact Arlinda Ruco by email at aruco@vha.ca.

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