Health & Safety Program

In the manufacturing sector, an effective health and safety program is a priority; it not only prevents injuries but increases employee engagement. The pandemic has also brought a renewed focus on health and safety measures with a renewed emphasis on the well-being of workers. Some manufacturers may have specific roles that are tasked with developing, designing and implementing a valid occupational health and safety program. 

HR’s role in implementing a Health and Safety program can vary depending on how other specific roles or individuals may be taking the lead.  HR should function as a coordinator that brings all the various pieces of the program together to ensure compliance such as developing and distributing  policies, maintaining records and scheduling safety training.  In the event of a workplace accident, it also falls to HR to coordinate response efforts and facilitate any necessary investigations or changes to prevent future incidents.  Management of the claims process along with overseeing Return-to-work procedures can also fall under the HR umbrella.

HR's Role

HR’s role in managing an effective Health and Safety program can include some or all of the following:

  • Ensure distribution of all applicable Health and Safety policies to employees through the Employee Handbook, training sessions, or posted in common areas such as the lunchroom. HR should also facilitate the review of policies on an annual basis or as is required and maintain records of signoff or changes made.
  • Coordinate safety training and maintaining records, either a paper copy or electronic records, of all sessions for each employee as well as the mandatory training hours and records of the Joint Health & Safety Committee or Health and Safety Representative.
  • Provide safety orientation for new or young workers when necessary. Maintain records of these sessions.
  • Ensure training on a Worker’s Rights and Responsibilities is included in the Onboarding Process.
  • Implement or update job descriptions to include competencies in safe work procedures.
  • Implement or update selection criteria to include questions regarding safe work procedures.
  • Coordinate any necessary investigations on workplace accidents or near misses and follow-up on actionable items and/or assignments and maintain all appropriate records.
  • Develop and Coordinate Return-to-Work procedures, considering the new regulations effective January 1, 2024.

WorkSafe BC describes an effective program as one that identifies and controls hazards, prevents injuries and disease, and promotes a positive health and safety culture.  There are many valuable resources on WorkSafe BC’s website that address specific safe work procedures for the value-add wood industry, and include information on specific lockout programs, fall protection, or confined space entry program.  They also have an online tool- My Health & Safety Resources that will guide a business in understanding and identifying hazards and risks in their specific workplace.

Safety Committee

Building a strong safety culture requires an investment in an effective Safety Committee.  WorkSafe BC regulations requires a Joint Health and Safety Committee for any workplace with 20 or more employees (Click here to access WorkSafe BC PDF), or a Health & Safety Representative for workplaces with less than 20 employees.  Establishing procedures that allow employers and employees to work together to identify and find solutions to workplace health and safety issues will create a culture of safety that benefits the business and the team.

A Joint Health & Safety Committee has the following specific duties and functions:

  • Identify unsafe situations and recommend solutions.
  • Recommend improvements to established processes and procedures.
  • Deal with complaints, inquiries, investigations and audits and monitor solutions for effectiveness.
  • Participate and consult with cross-functional groups and teams to provide health and safety advise and feedback.
  • Advise on proposed changes to the workplace, including changes to equipment and machinery, or the work processes.

WorkSafe BC has requirements for the ongoing training of the members of the Joint Health and Safety Committee – each member is to receive eight hours of training and instruction per year.  For those smaller businesses with a Health and Safety Representative, the requirement is four hours of training. 


A supervisor is anyone who instructs, directs, and controls workers within the workplace.  They play an important role in promoting and maintaining workplace safety. Their words and actions demonstrate the commitment to a safety culture that translates into more engaged employees.  Supervisors should perform regular safety activities, such as inspections, observations, investigations, and training and orientations.  By providing adequate supervision and measuring whether workers are meeting health and safety expectations, supervisors are an integral part of any Health and Safety program.

HR plays a key role in collaborating with both the Safety Committee or Health and Safety Representative as well as with Supervisors in promoting a strong safety culture.  By contributing as a member of the Safety Committee or with the administration of it, helping supervisors manage training schedules and records, and ensuring that safety conversations are included in the performance management process, HR provides important support functions for those tasked with keeping employees safe.

For information on courses throughout the province of BC for the Safety Committee, attached is a list of local OHS training providers. OHS courses are considered acceptable if the employer follows a reasonable process of assessing the training needs of committee members and selects appropriate training programs.

Supervising for Safety is an online course that helps supervisors understand the importance of their role in workplace safety.

Injury Prevention

Injury prevention in a manufacturing setting requires a commitment to the continuous  managing of risks, by identifying, assessing and controlling the hazards within the workplace.  Senior leaders, supervisors and members of the Safety Committee are responsible for building and maintaining a strong safety culture, and HR can contribute to this objective.  Risks and hazards need to be communicated to all employees and this can be done through the Onboarding process, the Employee Handbook, by posting information and proper signage.  HR can also ensure a detailed training schedule is followed, particularly for new employees.  Any changes to work procedures or hazards within the workplace, should be reinforced by communications from HR, and when necessary, have a signoff requirement for compliance purposes.

Claims Management

In some businesses, HR takes the lead on processing claims and managing Return to Work procedures, however for some manufacturers, these tasks fall to other individuals.  WorkSafe BC provides employers comprehensive information and support on Claims Management.  If an employee has a work-related injury or disease and gets medical treatment from a doctor or other qualified practitioner, the employer must report the incident as soon as possible.  Not reporting an injury is an offence under the Workers Compensation Act and can result in fines. Coercing an employee not to report an injury is also an offence.

HR's Role

Managing the administration of a claim could fall to HR as they would have access to all pertinent information required to supply to WorkSafe BC.  To fill out a report the following information is required:

  • Suggestions for transitional work and/or a modified work schedule to support the worker’s safe return to work.
  • Contact information for the employer and the employee.
  • Details of the incident(s) that led to the injury or disease.
  • The days (or shifts) missed due to the injury, if any.
  • The employee’s work schedule and rate of pay.

New Return to Work requirements were implemented by WorkSafe BC on January 1, 2024, and components of these new procedures could be incorporated by HR.  It is now a requirement to cooperate by contacting the employee regularly and maintaining communication, identifying suitable work for the worker, providing WorkSafeBC with information required to support return-to-work efforts, and doing other related tasks WorkSafeBC may require.

Investigations and Resources

Employers are responsible for immediately conducting an investigation into any incident that involves a serious injury, requires medical treatment, or had the potential to cause serious injury.

Section 69 of the Workers Compensation Act provides more details about what incidents employers must investigate.

HR's Role

HR can assist and coordinate with the administration of the investigation stages, however, those individuals conducting the actual investigation must be knowledgeable about the type of work involved in the incident.  The four stages of an investigation are preliminary investigation, interim corrective actions, full investigation and final corrective actions.  Each stage of the investigation requires documentation and a reporting process. To support employers in meeting this responsibility, WorkSafeBC offers both an online reporting tool and PDF template (Form 52E40). Employers can use either method to record their incident investigations. For more on completing a report, see the Reference Guide for Employer Incident Investigations.