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August Safety Tip: The Right to Participate and Finding the Causes that Lead to Prevention - BCGEU

This Safety tip highlights one of the 4 key OHS rights for workers in BC:

  • The right to participate in health and safety activities in the workplace

The other 3 key rights are the right to know about hazards in the workplace, the right to refuse unsafe work and the right to worker protection in relation to prohibited actions. (For more information about those rights, please go to

The right to participate applies to all workers, not just Worker Representatives on a Joint Occupational Health & Safety Committee (JOHSC). Serving on a JOHSC is only one way workers exercise their right to participate. 

Broad participation across your worksite strengthens your OHS program by having more workers actively identifying hazards and bringing forward the solutions that suit the work you are performing. Using the example of when an incident/accident or near miss occurs in the worksite, can assist us in thinking about how to exercise our right to participate.

Finding Causation factors after an Incident/Near Miss:
One role of Employer and Worker Representatives on a JOHSC is to conduct Accident/Incident Investigations when an incident or near miss occurs.

  • The goal of incident investigations is to find out the sequence of events that led to the incident to prevent a reoccurrence.
  • All of us at the worksite, even if we weren't involved in the incident or witnessed it, can play an important part in the process that leads to prevention.
  • Remember, the objective is prevention and key to that is rooting out the causes of the incident.

Almost all incidents and near misses have multiple causation factors. "The important point is that even the most seemingly straightforward incidents, seldom, if ever, is there only a single cause." (

How do we identify causes? What are we looking for?
In the Incident Investigations course, a common causation model is used in incident investigations to assist in identifying causes (Causation Factors Model below).

  • The emphasis is on multiple causations.
  • The goal is prevention.

We often see incident repots that where the sole cause is "worker error". In the union's view, this type of report is not looking close enough for multiple causation factors and will do little to prevent future incidences of a similar nature

What factors do we look for?

  • Task: looking at the tasks performed at the time of incident (e.g. procedures, the condition of equipment, external factors that may have altered procedures)

  • Materials: was there an equipment or material failure? (e.g. equipment/material design, maintenance logs, PPE requirements)

  • Personnel: This category is not meant to blame on the worker, but to look at how the jobsite impacts the individuals performing the work (e.g. experience, if/when training occurred, physical requirements, workload, stress, fatigue)

  • Environment: were there changes to the working environment that impacted the worker? (e.g. weather changes, poor lighting, noise, dust or fumes present)

  • Management: how is OHS supported and monitored by management? (e.g. communication about new procedures, checking in with workers about OHS, staffing levels, appropriate supervision)

Great to know this. Does this make us all Incident Investigators now?

  • No.
  • Conducting Incident Investigations requires training all Employer and Worker Representatives must have.

So why know about causes?
Beyond participating in incident investigations if/when they occur,

  • being able to identify multiple causes gives us a greater ability to identify hazards and/or potential hazards in our worksites - before an incident or near miss occurs
  • By looking at multiple causes when we report hazards to our managers/supervisors and our JOHSC, they can look at a variety of solutions can take corrective actions
  • Remember, the goal is prevention!



Download PDF of notice here