Ontario Court of Appeal rules on the composition of joint OHS committees

Independent contractors now included in “regularly employed”

The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled provincially regulated employers who hire independent contractors or workers from temporary agencies must include them in the decision as to whether or not the company needs a joint health and safety committee (JHSC).

In Ontario (Labour) v. United Independent Operators Limited, the Court of Appeal considered the meaning of the phrase "regularly employed" in section nine of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), the section of the OHSA that governs the establishment in workplaces of JHSCs.

United was a truck brokerage and dispatch service with 11 employees and between 30 and 140 independent contractors. When an independent truck driver was critically injured, the Ministry of Labour conducted an investigation and, when it determined that there was no JHSC, charged United for having failed to ensure the establishment of a JHSC at its workplace. United argued that there was no statutory obligation upon it to have a JHSC as it had less than 20 workers “regularly employed” at its workplace, and this argument prevailed at trial.

However, the Court of Appeal has held that that view is incorrect and has determined the term "regularly employed" includes independent contractors.

Companies who use independent contractors now need to count them in determining whether or not there needs to be a JHSC.

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