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Ontario Workplace Health and Safety Protocols

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Ontario Workplace Health and Safety Protocols

For this month’s Lions Library, let’s talk about workplace health and safety protocols in Ontario! The goal of Lions Library is to provide you with short-form, easy to understand, explanations of workplace health and safety topics as well as act as a database for where to learn more. In today’s blog, we’ll be sharing information on Ontario’s provincial workplace health and safety programs and where to find the best information to keep yourself and your employees safe working within the province of Ontario.

We will be posting a new Lions Library focusing on all of the Canadian provinces! Tune in to our blog, or social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & LinkedIn) so you’ll be sure to catch when we publish your province’s!

What are workplace health and safety guidelines?

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS) states, “A health and safety program is a definite plan of action designed to prevent accidents and occupational diseases.”

In most Canadian jurisdictions, some sort of a health and safety program is required under the occupational health and safety legislation. Because every organization is different, a specific health and safety program must be developed for each organization and cannot necessarily be expected to meet the needs of another.

Workplace Health and Safety in Ontario

Ontario workplace health and safety is regulated by The Occupational Health & Safety Act which sets out the rights and duties of everyone in the workplace, as well as the procedures for dealing with workplace hazards and for enforcement.

Other contributing legislation includes the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA), Part II of which deals with the prevention of occupational injury and disease and the Human Rights Code, which often has to be considered in dealing with OHS issues. Both OHSA and WSIA are available along with all of Ontario’s other Acts and regulations at the e-Laws website.

The Occupational Health & Safety Act came into force first in 1979 and with changes that were made in 1990 and subsequent years it has evolved into what it is today. These changes strengthened the requirements for occupational health and safety in Ontario workplaces and reinforced the internal responsibility system (IRS), in particular, the joint health and safety committees.

It’s important for employers to note that The Occupational Health & Safety Act makes it clear that employers have the greatest responsibilities. However, everyone has a role to play to ensure that health and safety requirements are met in the workplace. The respective roles and responsibilities for all workplace parties are detailed in The Occupational Health & Safety Act.

For Employees

As a worker in Ontario, you have three basic rights related to health and safety.

  • The right to know and to be trained in safe work practices in all aspects of your job.
  • The right to participate in health and safety matters either directly or through a worksite health and safety committee or representative.
  • The right to refuse work if you have reasonable cause to believe that the work process, equipment or environment poses an undue risk of injury to you or another person

If you’re a supervisor you have the responsibility to:

  • Provide a safe workplace and assign safe work taking all reasonable precautions to protect your coworkers from illness and/or injury
  • Inform your coworkers about job hazards and training them to do their jobs safely
  • Provide supervision to ensure that coworkers work safely and use equipment and protective devices properly where required

Supervisors who fail to comply with these and other Ontario’s Occupational Health & Safety Act regulations can result in individual fines up to $25,000.

Here are some resources that will help you educate yourself around Ontario OH&S:

For Employers

Ontario’s Occupational Health & Safety Act gives employers responsibility to:

  • Keep a safe and well-maintained workplace, taking all reasonable precautions to protect workers from illness and/or injury
  • Provide information about the hazards in the workplace including proper safety equipment, training, and competent supervision
  • Post the WSIB’s “In Case of Injury at Work” poster and follow proper procedures in case of injury
  • Post the Occupational Health & Safety Act in your workplace
  • Have worker representation for health and safety. If you workplace has 20 or more employees or you deal with a designated substance you must have a joint health and safety committee (JHSC). Construction projects that last more than 3 months with 20 or more workers must also have a JHSC. Workplaces with more than 5 employees, but less than 20 employees are required to have a health and safety representative

Failure to comply with these and other Ontario’s Occupational Health & Safety Act regulations can result in individual fines up to $25,000 and/or up to a year in prison. Corporations who fail to comply with these regulations can be fined up to $500,000. Employers are also subject to penalties for failing to report to the WSIB-within 3 days of learning of a workplace injury or illness.

Occupational health and safety compliance By Sector


The Construction Health and Safety Program enforces Ontario’s workplace safety laws in the construction sector. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, “construction” includes, erection, alteration, repair, dismantling, demolition, structural maintenance, painting, land clearing, earthmoving, grading, excavating, trenching, digging, boring, drilling, blasting or concreting, the installation of any machinery or plant & any work or undertaking in connection with a project, excluding any work or undertaking underground in a mine.

Health care

The Health Care Health and Safety Program enforces Ontario’s workplace safety laws in the health care sector. This includes long-term care homes, retirement homes, hospitals, nursing services, supported group living residences, treatment clinics and specialized services, professional offices and agencies, including medical laboratories. Most of these workplaces are also governed by Ontario Regulation 67/93 – Health Care and Residential Facilities.

Industrial sector

The Industrial Health and Safety Program enforces health and safety laws in industrial workplaces. This program is a large and diverse program that enforces Ontario’s workplace health and safety laws in 29 different sectors with includes the most provincially regulated workplaces in Ontario including education, government services and retail.

Mining sector

The Mining Health and Safety Program enforces Ontario’s workplace safety laws in the mining sector. Ontario’s mining sector can vary based on location, setting or activity including large and small firms, unionized and non-unionized workplaces, underground and surface operations, processing plants, including mills, smelters and refineries, sand and gravel operations, mineral exploration sites and oil and gas extraction facilities.

Specialized Professional Services and Radiation Protection Services

The Specialized Professional Services Unit provides technical support and expertise to ministry staff in ergonomics, occupational hygiene, engineering and emergency management. This unit also continues in the development of standards and legislation of health and safety guidelines.

Radiation Protection Services staff administer and enforce workplace radiation health and safety laws.