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How to Structure a Functional and Efficient Construction Committee

How to Structure a Functional and Efficient Construction Committee

Advice for contractorHow to Structure a Functional and Efficient Construction Committee

In early 2023, new regulations regarding construction site-related affairs came into effect. Among these new rules, one specifically highlights workers' accountability, or more precisely, their active involvement in improving worksite health and safety. In fact, when a worksite is to welcome over 20 labourers simultaneously, at one point or another, the principal contractor must, on top of putting together a prevention plan, form a construction committee as soon as work is set to begin.

Why is such a committee necessary, and how can you ensure it’s properly structured? 

Construction Committee Regulations and Functions

construction committee

Source: Canva

The committee is established at the beginning of worksite operations and must remain active to the very end of the construction project.

The reasons for requiring employees to meet on a regular basis are as follows:

  • Ensuring the terms of the prevention program and safety standards are met.

  • Making certain that on-site employer workflows are implemented and operational.

  • Receiving worksite health and safety feedback (complaints and suggestions).

  • Reviewing accident reports and submitting recommendations.

  • Examining inspection reports.

  • Keeping a record of meeting minutes.

Who’s responsible for the on-site construction committee?

construction committee

Source: Canva

First off, the principal contractor, meaning the person responsible for ensuring work is being done according to schedule during a construction project, must put together the committee. To fill vacant seats, a notice should be issued to all employees and employers. If there’s an workers’ association, the principal contractor must ensure the workers name a representative. 

The Safety Code, as part of the Building Act, lists regulations to follow in terms of structuring a committee:

  • Assign a general contractor or owner representative

  • Assign representative(s) for every employer (manager, superintendent, foreperson)

  • Assign representative(s) for each of the present workers’ associations

  • Assign health and safety representative(s)

  • Assign a health and safety coordinator/officer

Besides the general makeup of the committee listed above, equality is another important factor to consider. As such, there must be just as many employer representatives as there are employee representatives. If a construction worksite has more employers present than the maximum amount of representatives allowed by the committee, those who will sit on the board are the ones employing the most labourers.  

If numerous health and safety coordinators and representatives are elected, due to a high number of active workers, they must all attend committee reunions. Again, if the number of representatives exceeds that of available board seats, the represented associations will have to decide together on which members will attend reunions. 

What does a health and safety coordinator do?

Title holders must have a construction site safety officer certificate or a course certificate as a health and safety coordinator, issued by the CNESST, which is a minimum of 240 hours of training.

The appointed health and safety coordinator handles all committee affairs. The individual in question holds a full-time managerial position on the construction worksite, under the direct supervision of the principal contractor. 

Here’s a more detailed list of their tasks:

  • Inspect the work site and identify potential sources of hazards

  • Help design and update the prevention program

  • Ensure workers are aware of risks and the best trade-specific work practices

  • Investigate past or hypothetical incidents or causes of accidents

  • Accompany the inspector during visits

  • Put together the agenda or schedule for construction committee meetings (however, all committee members can suggest changes)

  • Write up the minutes and keep a record of all worksite health and safety-related elements (must be kept for a month after the project has wrapped)

Note that the coordinator can share this list of tasks with the principal contractor.

Construction Committee Meetings

construction committee

Source: Canva

The employer and principal contractor are responsible for putting together meeting details and schedules. Typically, meetings are held during regular work hours and account for hours worked. Note that the person in charge will have a maximum of 14 days after the project has begun to set the very first meeting. 

Afterwards, the frequency at which the meetings will be held is determined based on the number of labourers present on the worksite. Under 100, the committee must meet every fortnight. Over 100, they’ll have to plan a weekly meeting. 

An Effective Construction Committee

During the first meeting, if one or more members are first-time members of such a group, it may be useful to provide information regarding their specific role within the committee and the purpose of a construction committee. 

Prior to meetings, all committee members should receive the agenda to incite participation, as they’ll be able to prepare ahead of time and focus on the matters to be discussed. It goes without saying that a structured plan and comprehensive documents, maybe with annotations, will make the whole process more efficient.

A structured agenda should, at the very least, feature the following elements:

  • Follow-up on, and monitor, already discussed matters, if needed

  • Suggestions from worksite labourers and active committee members

  • Incident statistics, investigations, and analyses

  • In-house or outsourced reports of the latest inspections

  • Pinpoint upcoming risks as the worksite is furthering along and changing (new tradespersons involved, new chemical products used, etc.)

  • Changes made to the prevention program to reflect decisions made

Naturally, other topics of discussion are tailored to the context and priorities. 

CNESST Training for Construction Committee Members

As of January 1st, 2024, the Regulation respecting prevention programs on construction worksites will mandate that all active members of a construction committee obtain a certificate of training given by the CNESST. This training course, which lasts about an hour, is offered free of charge. Members are entitled to take a leave from work to complete this training, and to do so without a pay cut. Recently, CNESST has also introduced similar online training in collaboration with TÉLUQ University.

The topics covered include:

  • Act respecting occupational health and safety on construction worksites

  • Construction worksite-specific prevention and participation program

  • Construction committee regulations and functions

  • Designing and implementing a construction site prevention program

Those who already hold a certificate of training as a health and safety coordinator or representative are exempt from this step.

Construction Committees in Other Provinces

construction committee

Source: Canva

How does it work in neighbouring provinces or territories? For instance, it’s the same concept in Ontario and in Newfoundland and Labrador but is known as Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSC). 

Just as it is in Quebec, the committee is shaped by individuals who both represent employers and employees, with the purpose of improving health and safety conditions, including risk assessment. This consultative organizational approach is an integral part of workers’ rights: the right to know, participate, and refuse to undertake unsafe work. 

The requirements for such a committee are based on the number of active workers on a worksite:

  • 1 to 5 = no obligations

  • 6 to 19 = 1 health and safety officer. JHSC is mandatory if there are regulations pertaining to designated substances

  • 20 to 49 = JHSC of at least 2 members

  • 50+ = JHSC of at least 4 members

A committee member is required to inspect the worksite at least once a month. The overall functionings are very much like the ones detailed in this article regarding safety protocols mandated in Quebec. 

I am a woman, hear me roar! If you’re looking for a position in the construction industry, check out our article Training Programs for Women in Construction to get started!

Curious about everything that relates to construction site health and safety? Here are a few other articles that might be of interest:

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Last modified 2024-06-03

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