Policy 34 – Health, Safety and Environment

The policies found on the website of the Secretariat are compulsory rules for the University community. The authoritative copies of the policies are held by the Secretariat and bear the seal of the University. The online version accessible through the website of the Secretariat is available for information purposes only. In case of discrepancy between the online version and the authoritative copy held by the Secretariat, the authoritative copy shall prevail. Please contact the Secretariat for assistance if necessary.

Established: 7 January 1970
Revised: 19 November 2018
Mandatory Review Date: November 2019
Supersedes: N/A
Class: G
Responsible/Originating Department: Safety Office
Executive Contact: University Secretary

Related Policies, Guidelines and Procedures:

Policy 11 - University Risk Management
Policy 21 - Alcohol Use and Education
Policy 22 - Regulations Governing the Installation of Equipment in the University Buildings
Policy 29 - Smoking
Policy 33 - Ethical Behaviour
Policy 35 - Firearms
Policy 60 - University of Waterloo Emergency Response
Safety Guidelines for Field Work
Safety in Student Abroad Programs
Travel Requirements
Weather Closing Guidelines

See also the policies and procedures posted on the Safety Office website.

1. Introduction

The University of Waterloo is committed to the prevention of illness and injury and strives to provide a safe work and study environment for its employees, students and visitors. The policy is a key component of the University’s Health, Safety and Environment Management System.

2. Scope

This policy applies to all University employees, students and visitors on University Property or participating in University Events. With the exception of section 6.4.2, this policy does not apply to construction projects on University Property where the University is not the constructor or employer, as defined under the Act (defined below).

3. Legal Framework

In addition to the above mentioned “Related Policies, Guidelines and Procedures”, the policy will be construed in accordance with applicable law, in particular, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1 (the “Act”). Other applicable law includes:

  • Building Code Act, 1992, S.O. 1992, c. 23
  • Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.19
  • Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997, S.O. 1997, c. 4
  • Hazardous Products Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. H-3
  • Health Protection and Promotion Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.7
  • Pest Control Products Act, S.C. 2002, c. 28
  • Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, S.C. 1992, c.34
  • Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, S.O. 1997, c.16

If any of these legal provisions are modified, abrogated, superseded, or added to, the policy will be interpreted in accordance with the new legal framework.

 4. Purpose

The objective of this policy is to promote health and safety on University Property and at University Events, as required by applicable law.

5. Principles

 The following principles guide this policy:

  • The health and safety of individuals is of the utmost concern in every area of University operations.
  • The University will comply, and expects its employees, students and visitors to comply with applicable legislation governing health and safety.
  • The University will not tolerate violence on University Property or at University Events.
  • University employees, students and visitors are expected to take responsibility for their own safety and actions, and the impact of those actions on others.
  • University employees, students and visitors are expected to be proactive about reporting situations that impact health and safety on University Property or at University Events.

6. General Roles, Responsibilities and Procedures 

 6.1. University.

6.1.1. The University will take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of its employees, students and visitors.

6.1.2. The University will comply with applicable legislation governing health and safety, including, without limitation, ensuring that this policy is reviewed on an annual basis and posted as required under the Act.

6.1.3. The University will develop, maintain and communicate a health and safety program, internal standards and procedures to implement this policy, and ensure that employees receive necessary information, instruction and supervision to protect their health and safety.

6.1.4. The University will provide reasonable assistance and co-operation to the Joint Health and Safety Committees to enable them to carry out their work.

6.2. Director of Safety and Joint Health and Safety Committees.

6.2.1. The director of safety or designate is empowered to deal with dangerous circumstances, having the authority to stop any process or procedure, or to require the correction of any condition that contravenes the Act.

6.2.2. The director of safety and Joint Health and Safety Committees will identify health and safety concerns and seek to have these addressed by members of the University community acting through established University channels. When a health and safety concern cannot be solved in this manner it will be reported in writing by the director of safety or Joint Health and Safety Committee to the senior administrator accountable for the area, usually with a recommendation. The senior administrator's decision shall be communicated in writing to the director of safety.

6.3. Supervisors.

6.3.1. Supervisors must provide for the health and safety of employees under their authority, including training in specific work tasks, and must take necessary measures to comply with environmental requirements.

6.3.2. Supervisors will inform themselves of and comply with their duties under the Act and other applicable legislation governing health and safety, as well as University policies, guidelines and procedures.

6.3.3. Supervisors will promptly investigate and take corrective action, as necessary, upon identification of a hazard or receipt of a report from a worker re: conditions that are contrary to good health, safety or environmental practices or that contravene any legislative requirements.

6.3.4. If an employee under a supervisor’s authority refuses work or an assignment for reasons of safety, the supervisor will promptly investigate and take necessary corrective action.

6.3.5. In the event an employee under a supervisor’s authority is injured or becomes ill as a result of a work assignment, the supervisor will ensure that prompt first aid and health care treatment is obtained, if necessary and that University reports are completed by the end of the business day following the incident.

6.3.6. Supervisors will post this policy and other health, safety and environment program information provided by the Safety Office in a conspicuous location.

6.3.7. Supervisors should consult the Safety Office website or contact the Safety Office for further information in exercising their responsibilities under this policy and applicable legislation.

6.3.8. This section applies to a student where the student’s research (laboratory, field or other) for academic credit is conducted under the direct supervision of a University employee. In these circumstances, the references to employee in this section will be read as references to the student and the references to the supervisor in this section will be read as references to the University employee who is supervising the student’s research.

6.4. Employees, Students and Visitors.

6.4.1. University employees, students and visitors will comply with applicable legislation, University policies, guidelines and procedures, and additional directions from the University or a University employee in a position of authority, with respect to health and safety.

6.4.2. In addition to any other applicable terms, contractors, subcontractors and their employees undertaking work for the University must comply with the terms of their contracts and all applicable laws with respect to health, safety, conduct and the protection of the environment.

6.4.3. University employees, students and visitors have primary responsibility for their safety and actions and for the impact of their actions on others.

6.4.4. Subject to Section 6.4.5, University employees, students and visitors shall promptly report conditions that are contrary to good health, safety or environmental practices or that contravene any legislative requirements to their supervisor or another University employee in a position of authority. If the employee, student or visitor making a report does not see evidence of investigations being commenced or remedial actions being taken within a reasonable period of time, the employee, student or visitor shall report the situation to the director of safety or a Joint Health and Safety Committee member.

6.4.5. University employees, students and visitors shall report unsafe buildings and grounds conditions on University Property to Plant Operations.

6.4.6. Employees may refuse work or an assignment for reasons of safety without prejudice or fear of reprisal. Employees should consult the Safety Office website or the Act for more guidance on the process for refusing unsafe work in accordance with the Act.

6.4.7. University employees, students and visitors will take reasonable steps to minimize the impact of University operations on the environment and respond diligently to incidents arising from University activities which could have an adverse impact on the environment.

7. Roles, Responsibilities and Procedures Regarding Workplace Violence

 7.1. The University is committed to maintaining a working and learning environment that is violence free. The University strives to assess and minimize the risk of violence, and to ensure that reasonable safeguards are in place to protect employees, students and visitors from incidents of violence on University Property and at University Events.

7.2. The University has implemented a Workplace Violence Prevention Program, which includes measures and procedures to protect employees, students and visitors from workplace violence, a means of summoning immediate assistance and a process for employees, students and visitors to report incidents or raise concerns. As part of this program, the University is committed to ensuring that employees, students, supervisors and other University employees in positions of authority have the appropriate information and instruction to protect them from violence in the workplace.

7.3. All employees, students and visitors have a responsibility in maintaining a violence free working and learning environment by not engaging in acts of violence, and are required to report incidents promptly as outlined in the University’s Workplace Violence Prevention Program. Individuals should consult the Safety Office website or contact the Safety Office for more information on this program.

7.4. Any act of violence is unacceptable conduct that will not be tolerated. Anyone engaging in activities or behavior found to be of a violent or threatening nature will be subject to disciplinary and other sanctions up to and including termination of employment, expulsion and ban from University premises. Criminal or civil proceedings may also be initiated.

7.5. The University recognizes that domestic violence can pose a risk to members of the University community, and will take reasonable precautions to protect its members from the risk of domestic violence in the workplace.

                                     Appendix A
                                      Definitions

In this policy, the following terms shall have the following meanings:

“Act” means the Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1.

“domestic violence” has the same meaning as violence, except that the perpetrator and victim are or were in a personal relationship, such as a spouse or former spouse, current or former intimate partner or a family member.

“employee” has the same meaning given to the term “worker” under the Act, where the employer is the University.

“Joint Health and Safety Committee” means the University committee established to fulfill the responsibilities of a committee, as defined under the Act.

“senior administrator” means the president, vice-presidents and university secretary and general counsel.

“student” means individuals registered as undergraduate or graduate students at the University. For the purposes of this policy, a student will be an employee where they meet that definition and are acting within the course of employment.

“supervisor”[1] means a person who has charge of a workplace or authority over a worker.

“violence”[2] means,
a) the exercise of physical force by a person against a worker, student  or visitor on University Property or at a University Event, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker, student or visitor;
b) an attempt to exercise physical force against a worker, student or visitor on University Property or at a University Event, that could cause physical injury to the worker, student or visitor; or
c) a statement or behaviour that it is reasonable for a worker, student or visitor to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker, student or visitor, on University Property or at a University Event, that could cause physical injury to the worker.
The definition of violence includes domestic violence.

“visitor” means anyone attending on University Property or at a University Event who is not a student or worker. For the purposes of this policy, “visitor” does not include contractors, subcontractors or their employees while onsite at a construction project for which the University is not the constructor or employer as defined under the Act.

“University” means the University of Waterloo.

“University Events” means activities or events on or off University Property, which are organized by the University and under the control of University employees.

“University Property” means all real property owned and under the operational control of the University, except that, in the case of employees, University Property will have the same meaning as the term workplace, as defined in the Act.


[1] Note: this definition is the same as the definition of “supervisor” in the Act. The University may revise this definition from time to time to maintain consistency with the Act and will notify the community of such revisions.

[2] Note: this definition of “violence” is based on the definition of workplace violence under the Act. The University may revise this definition from time to time to maintain consistency with the Act and will notify the community of such revisions.