Occupational Health and Safety Panel Recommendations
In January of this year, the Minister of Labour appointed Tony Dean as Chair of the Expert Advisory Panel to lead a review of Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Prevention and Enforcement system. The appointed panel included three members each from labour, employers and academia with workplace health and safety expertise.
Workplace fatalities have raised serious concerns among stakeholders and the public about compliance with legislative and regulatory requirements, enforcement, and the prevention of workplace injuries and fatalities, particularly as they relate to vulnerable workers. Stakeholders are also concerned that:
- prevention resources are not sufficiently integrated/coordinated
- prevention activities and expenditures are duplicated unnecessarily
- prevention and compliance efforts of small business are inadequately supported, and that
- workplace parties are unaware of their basic rights and responsibilities.
The Panel's consensus report highlights the need for:
- enhanced training, including basic awareness training requirements for workers and supervisors, training for high-hazard work, as well as training for health and safety representatives
- greater access to health and safety resources and support
- improved protections for workers against employer reprisals for raising health and safety concerns, and
- a new OHS system structure to create more effective prevention programs that are aligned with enforcement efforts.
The recommendations balance the need to provide better protection and support for workers (especially young and new workers and recent immigrants) with the need to improve resources and compliance supports for the business community (particularly small businesses).
Mandatory Basic OHS Awareness Training And Education -- Require mandatory basic health and safety awareness training for all workers, supervisors (free of charge to employers). Improve integration of occupational health and safety training into school and educational programs.
Training For High-Hazard Work-- Identify and develop mandatory training requirements for high-hazard work, particularly construction work and work at heights.
Internal Responsibility System-- Require mandatory training for workplace health and safety representatives.
Better Protection For Vulnerable Workers-- Expedite the resolution of reprisal complaints under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and improve protection for new workers, youth, recent immigrants and foreign temporary workers through mandatory training, greater availability of multilingual and web-based health and safety resource materials, and the establishment of a committee (appointed under Section 21 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act) to advise the minister on issues related to vulnerable workers.
Better Support For Small Business-- Improve support for small business by appointing a Section 21 committee to advise the Minister.
New Prevention Organization -- The Ministry of Labour should assume responsibility for the co-ordination of prevention program delivery. This is currently the responsibility of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and other partners.
New Chief Prevention Officer -- Appoint a Chief Prevention Officer, reporting to the Minister of Labour, to coordinate and align prevention system strategies, priorities and programs, and oversee Ontario's Health and Safety Associations. The officer will report annually to the Minister on the state of the system and work collaboratively with all parts of the Ministry as well as with the Prevention Council to redesign injury prevention systems and integrate them with the Ministry's enforcement mandate.
Prevention Council -- The new prevention system should feature an appointed multi-stakeholder Prevention Council. As work begins to implement the recommendations and the new system structure, this Council would advise the Chief Prevention Officer and the ministry with respect to setting strategic priorities and measuring the system's progress.
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