Ontario Mandates Safety, Health Training for All Employers

By Roy Maurer Jun 13, 2014

Beginning July 1, 2014, all Ontario employers covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act must ensure that their workers and supervisors complete a basic occupational health and safety awareness training program.

Developed in partnership with labor groups, businesses and municipalities, the mandatory training stems from a quadruple fatality at a construction site in 2009. An expert advisory panel reviewed Ontario’s occupational health and safety system and concluded that employees were not receiving sufficient training. Many workers didn’t even know there was a health and safety law, according to the Ministry of Labour. Consequently, the panel recommended compulsory health and safety awareness training for all workers and supervisors in the province, including for workplaces not considered high-risk. The regulation applies to all workers, regardless of the size or the industry sector of the employer, including third-party contractors and temps.

Specifically, the regulation requires that workers complete training on:

  • The duties and rights of workers, employers and supervisors, health and safety representatives, and joint health and safety committees under the Act.
  • The roles of the Ministry of Labour, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and other entities designated under the Act with respect to occupational health and safety.
  • Common workplace hazards.
  • The requirements set out in Regulation 860 (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System).
  • Occupational illness, including latency, in which employees are exposed to hazardous or harmful substances and a significant amount of time elapses before related symptoms arise.

In addition to these requirements, supervisors must also be trained on:

  • How to recognize, assess and control workplace hazards, and evaluate those controls.
  • Sources of information on occupational health and safety.

Workers and supervisors can take part in a one-hour tutorial either individually or in groups using free, online e-learning tools or face-to-face sessions using printed workbooks. The printed training materials are available in nine languages. Employers may choose to use their own training materials; however, these materials must include the mandated topics. Once the e-learning training module is complete, an employee will receive a certificate that is valid for the remainder of his or her working career. Employers that have provided similar training to employees will not need to participate, as long as the previous training met the minimum requirements of the new regulation.

Employers must maintain a record of the training and provide workers or supervisors with written proof of completion of the training or exemptions upon request.

After July 1, 2014, failure to comply with the training regulation can result in a compliance order and penalties upon conviction, including a significant fine or imprisonment or both.

New hires must receive the training “as soon as is practicable.” Supervisors must receive it within one week of beginning work in that role.

“The training requirements will impact how you integrate new employees and contractors into your workplace,” said Laurie Jessome, an employment law attorney at Cassels Brock & Blackwell, based in Toronto. “You should review and update your onboarding process for new employees and temporary hires to assist with record-keeping and compliance. You may also wish to consider updating independent contractor agreements and agreements with temporary help agencies to ensure that contractors and staffing agencies undertake to provide their staff with safety awareness training.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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