Occupational Health and Safety
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”) sets out the rights and obligations on all workplace parties to ensure that proper health and safety practices are observed. Its predominant purpose is to protect Ontario workers against health and safety hazards on the job and provide workers with the knowledge, rights, and ability to do so.
As part of its goal of protecting workers, the Occupational Health and Safety Act sets out various duties on employers operating in Ontario ranging from specific types of training, workplace policies, workplace programs, and the establishment of various roles in the workplace such as a Health and Safety Representative and/or a Joint Health and Safety Committee.
Breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act can attract significant monetary penalties. At a minimum, all workplaces should implement and review the following:
Health and Safety Policy and Program – A workplace Health and Safety Policy and Program sets out the various roles and responsibilities of workers, managers, and the company with respect to health and safety. The Health and Safety Program itself will typically contain reporting procedures, post-accident procedures, work refusal procedures, and specific health and safety rules tailored to your workplace (i.e. personal protective equipment, working at heights training, housekeeping, noise, and material handling and back injury prevention).
Workplace Harassment and Workplace Violence Policy and Program – All employers in Ontario who have more than five employees in their workplace must create, review, and enforce a Workplace Violence and Workplace Harassment Policy and Program. There are detailed requirements set out in the OHSA in terms of what these policies and programs must include, which range from how to identify and control risks in the workplace to how the employer will investigate and deal with complaints of workplace violence.
Joint Health and Safety Committee – A Joint Health and Safety Committee (“JHSC”) is required at any workplace which has twenty or more workers regularly employed or which is otherwise ordered to create such a committee. The composition of the JHSC and its many functions and powers are also prescribed in the legislation. Where the JHSC is not required, employers who employ more than 5 employees must nevertheless have a Health and Safety Representative.
In the event that your workplace is subject to an investigation, complaint or audit, or if you require advice with respect to your rights and obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, we would be pleased to speak with you and ask that you contact us today.