Area of Law: Workers' Compensation
Answer Number: 645
Employers' responsibility to prevent workplace injuriesRegion: Ontario Answer Number: 645
Just as most employers must register with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and pay insurance premiums to cover injured employees, all employers have legal obligations to prevent workplace injury and disease. Employers must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers. Both the WSIB and the Ontario Ministry of Labour work to promote and enforce health and safety in the workplace.
Employer responsibilities under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Act is administered by the WSIB. Under the Act, it is an employer’s obligation to prevent injury and disease and maintain a healthy and safe work environment in a number of ways. These include:
- provide first aid training and first aid kits
- provide hazard information, proper safety equipment, training and competent supervision
- post the WSIB “In Case of Injury at Work” poster
- comply with established safety standards
Safe at Work Ontario
The Safe at Work Ontario mandate is the Ministry of Labour’s strategy to eliminate workplace injuries. It’s purpose is to:
- improve the health and safety culture of workplaces,
- reduce workplace injuries and illness,
- lessen the burden on the health care system, and
- avoid costs for employers and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
Under the Safe at Work Ontario strategy, the Ministry of Labour is responsible for enforcing the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which sets out minimum health and safety standards for workplaces in Ontario; its main purpose being to protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job.
Employer responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act
The Occupational Health and Safety Act sets out both the responsibilities of the employer and the rights of workers. It also establishes procedures for dealing with workplace hazards and enforces the law where the employer has not complied voluntarily.
To keep employees safe, the Act details several specific requirements that must be met by employers. Usually, this involves a business setting up a Joint Health and Safety Committee to meet regularly and implement safety programs. However, in addition to creating a Joint Health and Safety Committee, employers are also required to:
- Take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of workers;
- Ensure that equipment, materials and protective equipment are maintained in good condition;
- Provide information, instruction and supervision to protect worker health and safety;
- Co-operate with and provide health and safety reports to the Joint Health and Safety Committee;
- Comply with all regulations made under the Act;
- Develop and implement a health and safety program and policy;
- The Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training Regulation requires health and safety awareness training for every worker and supervisor (as of June 2014); and
- Post a copy of the Act in the workplace.
Penalties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)
The Stronger, Fairer Ontario Act become law on December 14, 2017. The new law has given the Ontario Ministry of Labour greater flexibility in the number of alleged violations (or “counts”) they can include when laying charges, and the Act also increases the penalties under the OHSA:
- Maximum fines for corporations, per conviction is now $1.5 million
- Maximum fines for individuals, per conviction is now $100,000, or a maximum of 12 months of jail time, or both.
In addition, the one (1) year limitation period for bringing charges has been extended to the latter of: the date that the alleged offence occurred, and the date the Ministry of Labour Inspector becomes aware of an alleged offence.
For more information regarding an employers’ responsibility to prevent workplace injury and maintain health and safety in the workplace, go to Employment Law 594 Health and safety in the workplace. You can also contact the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, or visit the Ministry of Labour.
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