Mandatory training for workplace safety recommended for Ontario

Government to hire new prevention officer
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 12/22/2010

Every Ontario worker and supervisor would receive mandatory information about workplace rights and responsibilities before he starts his job and every construction worker would receive entry-level training on construction site safety if proposals from an Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety are adopted.

The panel, chaired by Tony Dean, a professor at the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto, was created early in 2010 to conduct a review of Ontario’s occupational health and safety (OHS) system. The move came after four men employed by Metron Construction were killed when they fell from a swing stage scaffold 13 storeys above ground at an apartment complex in Toronto in December 2009. Metron and three employees were charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm and four counts of criminal negligence causing death. The Ministry of Labour also laid 30 OHS charges against Metron, 16 against a director of the company and eight against a supervisor.

The panel’s report and recommendations also called for rigorous training standards for workers who work at heights and on other high-risk activities; tougher penalties for those who place workers at risk of death or serious injury; and better support for employers in understanding and meeting health and safety standards. There should also be greater accommodation of the needs and realities of operating small businesses in labour policies; a prevention organization with focused leadership heading a more integrated, efficient and accountable system; and more information and better protection available for vulnerable workers, said the report.

“There are no single levers or changes the panel could recommend that would effect significant improvements on their own,” said the report. “For this reason, the panel made an effort to find the best mix of high-value opportunities for change. These opportunities touch on the continuum of prevention and enforcement activities from education in schools and proactive prevention initiatives, right through to the need for effective enforcement in situations where safety standards are breached.”

The panel recommended a new prevention organization be created within the Ministry of Labour to create, implement and audit training standards that would apply to training required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations. It would work with other ministries and training organizations to develop a graduated occupational health and safety Awareness and Training Strategy to establish Ontario as a jurisdictional leader in OHS continual learning and training.

And the Ontario government just announced it welcomed the recommendations and a new chief prevention officer will be hired.

The Ministry of Labour should also create a mandatory requirement for training of health and safety representatives and require mandatory health and safety awareness training for all workers. And it should develop mandatory fall protection training for workers working at heights as a priority and consult with stakeholders to determine additional high-hazard activities that should be subject to mandatory training for workers, said the report.

When it comes to combating the underground economy, the panel recommended the government make a single provincial entity responsible for overseeing and co-ordinating a province-wide strategy to address the underground economy. The entity should consult regulators and the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade on expansion of the Designations Regulation under the Regulatory Modernization Act, 2007 to enhance the capacity of regulators to detect and combat underground activity. The Ministry of Labour should target workplaces and sectors operating in the underground economy for proactive inspections after normal working hours, said the recommendation.

On the topic of incentives, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, in conjunction with the new prevention organization and stakeholders, should review and revise existing financial incentive programs, with a particular focus on reducing the emphasis on claims costs and frequency. The new prevention organization, in conjunction with stakeholders, should develop an accreditation program that recognizes employers who successfully implement health and safety management systems.

The Ministry of Labour should also review its enforcement policy and supports for inspectors to create a consistent approach of tough enforcement for serious and wilful contraventions, as well as compliance assistance where guidance and support for employers help achieve compliance. And the ministry should enhance the legislative provisions for penalties by adding administrative monetary penalties as an enforcement tool.

To better protect vulnerable workers, the minister of labour should appoint a committee to provide advice on matters related to the occupational health and safety of vulnerable workers, said the report. The ministry should also carry out more proactive inspections and periodic enforcement campaigns at workplaces and in sectors where vulnerable workers are concentrated.

On the education front, the Ministry of Education should work with school boards, private schools and teacher organizations to expand the health and safety content of primary and secondary school curricula and update teacher resource material to allow them to effectively teach these curricula, said the panel. The Ministry of Education should make high school graduation dependent upon demonstration of knowledge of occupational health and safety and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities should work with post-secondary institutions and trade schools to incorporate health and safety content into their programs for both future workers and employers and senior executives.

The full report can be found at: http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/eap/report/index.php.

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