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OHS poster, increased ESA enforcement and next MOL safety blitz includes violence prevention

Image: www.labour.gov.on.ca

1. Ministry of Labour OHS poster must be posted on or before October 1, 2012

We wrote about this requirement in a previous blog post, but October 1 is quickly approaching, so we thought it would be a good idea to send out a reminder. Employers across Ontario are required to post in the workplace a new occupational health and safety poster entitled: “Health and Safety at Work – Prevention Starts Here” on or before October 1, 2012. The requirement falls under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

The poster summarizes workers’ health and safety rights and responsibilities, as well as the responsibilities of employers and supervisors. It also reminds employers about the reprisal provisions under the Act (i.e., not to take action against workers for following the Act and rather, support them, raising workplace health and safety concerns or seeking enforcement of the OHSA). The poster encourages workers to get involved in health and safety, and explains when and why to contact the Ministry of Labour.

The poster can be downloaded from the Ministry of Labour website for free, here. It must be printed in a size of at least 8.5 x 11 inches.

MOL inspectors will begin enforcing this requirement during targeted and random workplace inspections, so be ready!

2. Increased ESA enforcement

On September 17, 2012, the Ontario Ministry of Labour announced that it is enhancing the enforcement of the Employment Standards Act (ESA), by hiring additional officers and staff and more proactive inspections.

According to the MOL, an initial $3 million, two-year investment will allow for 18 additional Employment Standards Officers and staff to be hired.

As part of the Ministry’s Employment Standards enforcement strategy, officers conduct proactive inspections of workplaces. Proactive inspections encourage workplace parties to comply with the ESA before serious violations arise and complaints are filed. These inspections also contribute to educating employers and employees about their rights and responsibilities under the ESA.

Enforcement is also supported through investigation of claims filed by employees who believe their rights under the ESA may have been violated.

During a proactive inspection, an employment standards officer will educate the employer about its obligations under the ESA and its regulations, and will take enforcement action as needed for each workplace inspected. Although officers will focus on proactive enforcement in the specific sectors identified below, officers are not limited to conducting proactive inspections solely in the sectors that have been identified in the targeted proactive inspections plan.

Sectors identified for targeted proactive inspection across Ontario in 2012 – 2013:

  • Auto Mechanics
  • Building Services including: Security, Parking, Cleaning & Food Services
  • Car Dealerships
  • Fast Food Restaurant Franchises
  • Gas Stations
  • Hotel/Hospitality including: Hotels, Motels, Housekeeping Cottages, Cabins, Bed & Breakfasts, RV Parks & Camps
  • Private Schools including elementary through high school, Business, Secretarial, Computer, Trade or Technical Training & ESL/Language
  • Temporary Help Agencies

Thus, employers need to self-audit their workplace including their policies, practices and procedures to ensure compliance with the Employment Standards Act and Regulations.

The result of your workplace audit will allow you to correct any violation and implement remedies before an ESA officer comes knocking at the door.

3. October-November MOL safety blitz includes violence prevention

Between the months of October and November 2012, the Ontario Ministry of Labour will conduct an inspection blitz that will focus on

  1. machine guarding hazards, violence and harassment prevention and repetitive strain injuries in manufacturing and industrial workplaces and
  2. infection prevention and control in health care workplaces.

The blitzes are part of Ontario’s enforcement strategy to increase compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.

As indicated in MOL’s sector plan, the majority of workers at provincially regulated workplaces in Ontario are part of the industrial sector. The industrial sector consists of a broad range and diverse group of workplaces and work processes. In most industrial sectors, the Industrial Establishments Regulation, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 851 under the OHSA applies and provides specific regulatory requirements or guidance to the workplace parties. In some sub-sectors, such as education, there is no applicable sector specific regulation. However, as with all workplaces covered by the OHSA, employers in these sub-sectors have a duty to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers from hazards in their workplace.

This sector can include the automotive, food and beverage, wood and metal fabrication, textiles and printing, pulp and paper, chemical, rubber and plastic, primary metals ceramics and logging sub-sectors, and offices.

MOL inspectors will focus on the key hazards associated with manufacturing processes which include, guarding and lockout, worker to worker workplace violence, Internal Responsibility System (IRS), occupational disease (noise and chemical exposure) and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

HSO Network News interviewed Ministry of Labour spokesperson Rob Wrigley, a program manager for the Industrial Health and Safety Program, who explained that, “instead of conducting individual inspection blitzes on each of these issues, inspectors will widen the scope of each workplace visit to take these and other hazards into account. While checking machines for compliance with guarding and lockout requirements, explained Wrigley, inspectors will also be looking for related risk factors. For example, MSD issues associated with these machines, such as awkward or repetitive loading and retrieval of items from machines, conveyors and workstations, postures that are awkward or require an excessive range of motion, guarding ergonomics.”

In addition, MOL officers will also look at the risk of occupational illness from exposure to chemicals and noise and failure to comply with workplace violence and harassment provisions.

“The intent,” said Wrigley, “is to conduct comprehensive visits, not focus just on blitz priorities at the expense of other hazards that may be present.” Wrigley advises that this comprehensive approach won’t end once the blitz is over. “Inspectors will be watching out for these hazards on an ongoing basis. These are zero-tolerance issues.”

Are you ready for a possible MOL inspection?

You may be… but it is good form to conduct a self-audit to ensure you are complying with the law; you have identified possible hazards and put the right measures in place to prevent the risk of injury or fatality in your workplace. In addition, ensure all your employees have been told about the hazards and risks, trained on safe work practices, and trained on your policies and procedures, and that this information is readily available to them.

Yosie Saint-Cyr
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Managing Editor

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Yosie Saint-Cyr

Managing Editor at First Reference Inc.
Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., is a trained lawyer called to the Quebec bar in 1988 and is still a member in good standing. She practiced business, employment and labour law until 1999. For over 15 years, Yosie has been the Managing Editor of the following publications, Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro, HRinfodesk and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro from First Reference. Yosie is one of Canada’s best known and most respected HR authors, with an extensive background in employment and labour across the country. Read more
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