Ontario proposes changes to health and safety act

Also amendments to Workplace Safety and Insurance Act

Ontario is taking action to improve the province's safety system and increase protection for workers by proposing amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.

If passed, these would:

• establish the Ministry of Labour as the lead for accident prevention, transferring it from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board

appoint a new chief prevention officer to co-ordinate and align the prevention system

create a new prevention council — with representatives from labour, employers, and safety experts — to advise the chief prevention officer and the minister

give the minister the authority to establish standards for health and safety training to enhance this training and ensure workers are properly trained

provide workers with improved protections against reprisals for exercising their rights under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The proposed amendments would also give the minister of labour oversight of the province's health and safety associations, along with the education, training and promotion of workplace health and safety.

“This proposed legislation is about laying the foundation, and building the framework, for a new and more effective occupational health and safety system in Ontario,” said Charles Sousa, minister of labour, speaking in the legislature. “By working together, we can continue to foster workplaces that are healthy, safe and harmonious and, by doing so, also build a strong economy.”

The proposed changes are in response to recommendations provided by the Expert Panel on Occupational Health and Safety that released its report in December 2010. Made up of representatives from labour, business and academia with workplace health and safety experience and expertise, the panel received more than 400 responses and submissions during consultations and conducted more than 50 meetings with stakeholders across the province.

The formation of the panel was prompted by a December 2009 incident in which four construction workers died in Toronto when the scaffolding they were working on collapsed. A fifth worker was seriously injured.

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