What is a competent supervisor?

Monday, December 05, 2016

Legal duty to protect workers

by Jerry Traer  CRSP, Program and Training Specialist

Competent Supervisor information sheet - Please download, print and share

Worker and supervisor talk at industrial plantIf you review the latest Ministry of Labour prosecutions, you will undoubtedly find a case where a supervisor is being prosecuted under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This can be an unnerving exercise for a supervisor, and a potential charge of $5,000 or more can be financially devastating to that supervisor. Under occupational health and safety law, we don’t have the option of purchasing insurance to cover ourselves in case of litigation, so supervisors need to take action to protect themselves from prosecution. In fact, a good employer ensures their supervisors know their responsibilities when it comes to health and safety.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, a competent supervisor “must have enough knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and how it is to be performed. They must also be familiar with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and any regulations under it that apply to the workplace, and, know about any actual or potential health and safety hazards in the workplace.”

Supervisor roles and responsibilities

Part of protecting supervisors is training them with regards to their role and responsibilities, and understanding their obligations when it comes to their workers and doing the right thing when situations arise that deal with hazards in the workplace. Workplace Safety North (WSN) developed a two-day training course, called “The Competent Supervisor,” which gets into many of the aspects that a supervisor should know about when it comes to occupational health and safety. 

It wasn’t long ago, that such programs didn’t exist, but over the years, employers realized their supervisors needed more information and knowledge similar to a Joint Health and Safety Committee and its certification program. In the initial phases of the program, it was very successful and many supervisors were trained.

Customized training for 160 supervisors

Skip ahead to 2014 and the beginning of a training arrangement with paper maker and converter Atlantic Packaging Products. The firm was interested in providing training to all of their supervisors – about 160. Not only was the training going to give their supervisors the knowledge to do a better job of supervising and understanding the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the various applicable regulations, but the training was going to be customized to cover procedures developed internally by Atlantic Packaging. This training ensured that when doing inspection, investigations or dealing with hazard reporting, supervisors would be familiar with their company’s forms and procedures.

Another unique process in the training involved conducting some evaluations of supervisors after the training had taken place to ensure messages covered in the training were still being followed months after the training was completed. More than 70 per cent of the supervisors were evaluated in some form, from hands-on review of the notebook covered in the training course, reviewing incidents, investigation procedures, and determining root cause. 

More consistent approach throughout organization

“This training helped create a more consistent approach to health and safety throughout our organization,” says Mark Tranter, Corporate Health and Safety Coordinator at Atlantic Packaging. “The customized content embedded into the WSN Competent Supervisor course ensures our frontline leaders understand their legal and regulated responsibilities, and the specific expectations of the company. The follow-up evaluation component of this course was instrumental; the training was validated and reinforced a couple of months afterward when WSN instructors visited and interviewed the supervisors on the job, and reported on effectiveness and additional training required.”

Atlantic Packaging should be commended on setting a best practice when it comes to supervisor training and they can expect significant decreases in injury rates as more supervisors and workers engage in health and safety by identifying hazards early in the process and correcting those hazards long before workers are injured by them.

WSN continues to evolve its training programs to ensure the message is indeed sticking with participants; expect field consultants to follow up more regularly with participants as a measure of our commitment to the organizations served in the province of Ontario. With this supervisor training, expect that your frontline people will have a better handle on dealing with health and safety hazards and issues on a regular basis. Workers can expect faster response time from supervisors to control hazards and protect the worker’s well-being. As Workplace Safety North states in its mission statement, the goal is at the end of each workday “every worker, home safe and healthy.”

For more information, contact info@workplacesafetynorth.ca

Jerry Traer is a Canadian Registered Safety Professional, and Program and Training Specialist with Workplace Safety North. With extensive education and training, Jerry makes numerous presentations at safety conferences across Canada, and sits on several Canadian Standards Association technical committees. He works closely with Toronto East and Eastern Ontario firms in pulp, paper, corrugated, and other related industries. jerrytraer@workplacesafetynorth.ca


Competent Supervisor health and safety training course

Superviseur compétent cours de formation en santé et sécurité