Occupational Health & Safety Ontario

In Ontario, Canada, employers are required by provincial law to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. The Ontario Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) regulations are enforced to protect workers from potential work hazards. Employers are required to uphold these regulations and create safe work environments. In this article, we will explore employer responsibilities under OHS laws in Ontario, and describe the main aspects of OHS programs, ongoing compliance monitoring, and audit processes.  

Understanding Employer Responsibilities 

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) mandates employers to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees. The primary objective of OHSA is to create a legal structure that safeguards workers from health and safety risks in the workplace. It accomplishes this by assigning responsibilities and rights to everyone involved in the workplace and emphasizing the importance of an internal responsibility system. The OHSA also outlines methods and steps for addressing workplace dangers and ensures that the law is enforced when voluntary compliance isn’t achieved. In essence, it’s a set of rules and regulations designed to keep workers safe and secure on the job.  

The 25 regulations contained in the OHSA establish specific responsibilities such as the following: 

  • Health and Safety Policies: A primary obligation set out in the OHSA consists of creating a written occupational health and safety policy for workplaces with more than five workers. The resulting policy should outline a commitment to the creation of a safe workplace. It is necessary to review it periodically, to create OHS programs for its execution, to communicate it to all employees, and to post it in a convenient location. 
  • Training and Supervision: Employees must be provided with an occupational health and safety awareness training program. Their training must make them able to perform their tasks safely. Employers are required to guarantee that employees are knowledgeable about the potential hazards and have the tools to mitigate them. Supervision is intended to ensure compliance with safe work practices. 
  • Workplace Inspections: Employers must regularly inspect the workplace to identify and rectify potential hazards. Inspections help in maintaining a safe environment and preventing accidents. 
  • Reporting Incidents: Employers are obligated to report any workplace incidents, injuries, or fatalities to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) within specified timeframes. This ensures that authorities can investigate and take appropriate action. 
  • Joint Health and Safety Committees: In workplaces with 20 or more employees, employers must establish a Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC). The committee plays a vital role in identifying and resolving health and safety issues. 
  • Records and Documentation: Employers must maintain records related to training, incidents, and workplace inspections. These records serve as evidence of compliance with OHS regulations. 

Overview of OHS Programs 

OHS programs are comprehensive strategies aimed to prevent and mitigate health and safety issues in the workplace. In Ontario, OHS programs must be created to facilitate an Internal Responsibility System (IHS), as outlined in the OHSA. The following  are the key components of an OHS program: 

  • Roles and responsibilities: the IHS provides responsibilities to both workers and employees in keeping a safe and healthy workplace. An OHS program must ensure the compliance of all the parties with their duties as a part of the establishment of an IHS.  
  • Hazard Identification and Assessment: Employers must assess workplace hazards and take measures to eliminate or control them.  
  • Reports: If they identify a potential problem or contravention of the OHSA, employees are required to report the situation to their employers or supervisors. 
  • Emergency Response Plans: Every workplace should have an emergency response plan that outlines procedures for evacuations, first aid, and communication during emergencies. 
  • Safe Work Practices: Employers must establish safe work procedures for all tasks performed in the workplace. These procedures should be communicated to employees and enforced rigorously. Employees have the duty to take all the actions explained to them in training sessions.  
  • Incident Reporting and Investigation: Procedures for reporting and investigating workplace incidents should be clearly defined.  
  • Regular Audits and Reviews: OHS programs should be subject to regular audits and reviews to ensure that they remain effective and up to date. Any necessary adjustments should be made promptly. 

Ongoing Compliance Monitoring and Audits 

Achieving OHS compliance is not a one-time task. It requires constant monitoring and evaluation actions, and it must be achieved within the framework of an IHS. Employers in Ontario must continuously assess their workplace to ensure that they meet regulatory requirements and maintain a safe environment. 

The corresponding assessment involves steps such as workplace inspections, reviewing and updating health and safety policies, providing training and education, investigating workplace incidents, conducting external audits, encouraging employee feedback, and keeping comprehensive records. By diligently adhering to these steps, organizations can prioritize safety, demonstrate compliance with regulations, and create a culture of safety that benefits everyone who is involved. 

The main objective of monitoring and audits consists of enforcing the OHS laws of the province of Ontario. MLTSD inspectors are enabled to issue administrative orders if they find contravention of OHSA or its regulations. If a contravention takes place, under the OHSA there is a maximum penalty of $500,000 for individuals, with the potential for up to a year of imprisonment. Directors and officers of corporations may face a fine of up to $1,500,000, along with the possibility of a one year of imprisonment. Additionally, corporations themselves could be subjected to a fine of up to $1,500,000. 

Why Choose Roberts & Obradovic for Your OHS Inquiries? 

Addressing OHS issues effectively requires expertise and a deep understanding of Ontario’s regulatory framework. Roberts & Obradovic is a leading OHS consulting firm with a proven track record of helping employers navigate the complexities of workplace safety in Ontario.  

Our team of experts has in-depth knowledge of Ontario’s OHS regulations and industry-specific challenges. We have an understanding of the current state of legislation and regulary advise clients on compliance, risk and audit strategies. We understand that every workplace is unique, and we work closely with you to develop customized OHS programs and solutions that align with your specific needs and risks.  

Experiencing Occupational Health & Safety concerns in your workplace? If you are an employer seeking guidance on compliance, our team of experts is here to help. Connect with us at (647) 724-5179 or use our contact form to schedule a complimentary consultation with our experienced Occupational Health & Safety advisors.