Homework for Ontario employers: new health and safety awareness training

February 24, 2013 - by: Antonio Di Domenico 0 COMMENTS

By Antonio Di Domenico

Occupational health and safety laws across Canada provide that employers must take certain steps to protect the health and safety of their workers. But none go so far as to make certain health and safety training mandatory. At least not until now.

The Ontario government has announced that it intends to file a regulation by July 1 making occupational health and safety awareness training mandatory in that province – and soon, by January 1, 2014. While other Canadian provinces have taken similar steps, Ontario’s approach will be the most comprehensive to date, giving Ontario employers lots of homework.

Workplaces covered

The new training requirements will apply to all workplaces covered by Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). The workplaces covered are broad and include industrial establishments, construction projects, health care and residential facilities, mines and mining plants, and farming operations.

Worker training materials

Ontario’s Ministry of Labour has prepared worker safety awareness training materials that employers can use to ensure compliance with the regulation. An employer will be deemed to have complied with the new requirements if it already has ensured that its workers and supervisors have completed an awareness training program, and so long as the program meets the minimum proposed requirements, before January 1, 2014.

Minimum content requirements

If passed in its current form, awareness training programs will have to provide training for both workers and supervisors:

Worker awareness training

  • Rights and responsibilities of workers and supervisors under Ontario’s OHSA;
  • Roles of workplace parties, health and safety representatives, and joint health and safety committees;
  • Roles of the Ministry of Labour, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and health and safety partners;
  • Hazard recognition;
  • Right to be informed of hazards;
  • Reference to an employer’s obligations to provide information and instruction to workers about certain controlled products; and
  • Latency and illness related to occupational disease.

Supervisor awareness training

  • Rights and responsibilities of workers and supervisors under the OHSA;
  • Roles of workplace parties, health and safety representatives, and joint health and safety committees;
  • Roles of the Ministry of Labour, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and health and safety partners;
  • Recognition, assessment, control, and evaluation of hazards; and
  • Accessing resources and assistance.

What employers should do now

Once the regulation is filed, Ontario employers should ensure that they take the following steps well before January 1, 2014:

  • Review existing worker and supervisor training programs and determine whether these programs will satisfy the proposed regulatory requirements;
  • Determine how the training, if needed, will be provided on a cost-effective basis (e.g., in person, a webinar); and
  • Finalize a process for documenting the completion of training for employees and supervisors. Ensure this information is readily available. (This will become important if an inspector arrives unannounced and requests this information.)

And employers in the rest of Canada should stay tuned to see if similar developments arise in their jurisdictions.

About Antonio Di Domenico:
Tony conducts a broad practice in all aspects of corporate commercial, civil and administrative litigation, with particular emphasis on class actions, competition litigation, securities litigation, white-collar crime/quasi-criminal litigation, constitutional litigation, product liability, health law and employment matters.

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