HR Toolkit

HR Policies & Employment Legislation

Sample Policies on Common HR Topics

Occupational health and safety

Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) policies express an organization's commitment to a safe and healthy workplace. OSH policies set the context for practices and behaviour aimed at preventing injury and disease and promoting good health. OSH policies are also the framework for dealing with health and safety issues that do arise in the workplace and they help organizations comply with legal requirements.

Workplace policies and practices must comply with applicable Occupational Health and Safety laws and regulations and with Workers' Compensation laws and regulations, which deal with compensation for accidents and disease.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) website is a rich resource:

  • A searchable section under "OSH Answers"
  • Contact information for government departments and agencies in all jurisdictions
  • Updates on changes to legislation, program ideas and current OSH news items

Employers and employees share responsibilities for making sure work environments are healthy and safe. Encourage everyone in your workplace to be accountable for health and safety. Invite employees to work on developing and implementing your OSH policy and programs. Review your policy regularly and be vigilant about implementing it. Make sure that everyone understands the policy and their responsibilities. Post OSH information in visible areas.

Here are some key elements to cover in an OSH policy:

  • Individual responsibilities
  • Workplace rules and procedures
  • Employee orientation and training
  • Workplace inspections (preventive action)
  • Reporting and investigating accidents and health and safety incidents
  • Emergency procedures, medical and first aid
  • Health and safety committee (required in most provinces and territories in workplaces with a specified minimum number of employees)
  • Employees' right to refuse to work without fear of reprisal if they believe it is unsafe for themselves or someone else. Legislation provides guidelines on specific rights, procedures, and penalties for non- compliance

Your OSH policy must be specific to your workplace. It needs to deal with any unique workplace issues. Here is a sample list of issues and some ideas about how they can be addressed:


Smoking and scents

A policy prohibiting or restricting smoking can be part of a health promotion initiative in your office. This promotion may include support for smoke cessation programs. The increasing prevalence of sensitivities to fragrances and allergies may trigger a need in your workplace for a scent free policy.

Workplace violence

Some workplaces and work situations are at higher risk than others. Several provinces now have legislation requiring employers to have policies that relate specifically to workplace violence. The CCOHS website covers workplace violence in detail.

Working alone

No jurisdiction prohibits working alone. Some jurisdictions have specific legislated guidelines on working alone - for example, working at a worksite where assistance in case of emergency or illness is not readily available. Consult applicable OSH legislation for more details.

Infection control

This policy usually addresses precautions to be taken to ensure protection from the spread of infectious disease. Often it is written as universal precautions - treat anything as if it were infected without individual discrimination.

Pandemic response

Pandemic response policies set out how the organization will respond in the case of a pandemic illness. A useful toolkit is available through the Public Health Agency of Canada


Substance abuse

Substance abuse can impair work performance and increase absenteeism and the likelihood of accidents. The website for the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse has current information on pre-employment testing, employer and employee rights and the application of human rights legislation.


Sample policies

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Policy - National Organization (PDF - 39KB)

  • Addresses the effect substance abuse can have on performance and safety
  • Detailed and well-organized
  • Provides clear guidelines for treatment and discipline
  • Mentions additional resources

Blood Borne Pathogens - Nova Scotia Organization (PDF - 29KB)

  • States the purpose and rationale for universal precautions
  • Mentions that the procedures will be posted

Environmental Sensitivities - Nova Scotia Organization (PDF - 33KB)

  • Covers smoking
  • Discourages scents in the workplace (a challenge because the organization serves a variety of people from the general public

Health and Safety at Work - Food Bank (PDF - 87KB)

  • Detailed appendices outline Health and Safety and Emergency
  • Provides evacuation procedures and requirements, including accident and incidents
  • Outlines clear roles and responsibilities are clear

Security and Violence in the Workplace - YWCA Yellowknife (PDF - 28KB)

  • States the responsibilities of the employee and his/her colleagues

Smoking in the Workplace - YWCA Yellowknife (PDF - 27KB)

  • States that smoking is only permitted in designated areas
  • Encourages responsible use of designated areas

Workplace Violence: Prevention, Protocols and Sanctions - National Organization (PDF - 64KB)

  • Includes definitions
  • Establishes rights and responsibilities as well as disciplinary actions
  • Covers employees and volunteers