As of April 1, 2012, the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) officially took over the prevention mandate from WSIB. How has this been impacting employers in 2013 and what real effects are organizations seeing? If you have any comments about this, I’d love to hear.
Involved in Health and Safety within my organization, I’ve seen some of the changes first hand as well as hearing from other professionals, WSIB employees and Health and Safety Ontario Consultants. Here are just a few of the changes that I’ve observed or been told about. One up front disclaimer is that as these are observed or overheard impacts but some of them cannot yet be confirmed at this time.
Ministry of Labour health & safety and prevention resources
There has been an increase of resources, videos, podcasts and information available on the Ministry of Labour website. Sure it is not perfect, but if you haven’t visited the MOL website in a while you might be surprised by the number of new employer friendly resources available. One example is the pilot project: “Supervisor Health and Safety Awareness in 5 Steps” workbook and employer guides. Both new information and new formats for information including posters, podcasts and YouTube videos are available under the headings “Safe at Work” and under “Prevention” on the MOL website. The MOL website redevelopment seems to be emulating the success of WorkSafeBC, a site that I would often visit because of a lack of quality health and safety resources available from Ontario. Check out the newly improved MOL site here.
WSIB Safe Communities Incentives Program (SCIP) and Safety Group uncertainty
In 2012, WSIB SCIP programs kept running despite uncertainty and rebates were received (although delayed) by participating organizations. The facilitator of one SCIP program was unsure what was happening with the program and even with her position as a WSIB program facilitator during the transition. WSIB employees involved in prevention were not able or did not want to transition to become MOL employees and continue to work in their same prevention roles because they were in different unions and would lose seniority if they took a position with the MOL. The SCIP program is still listed on the WSIB website but it is uncertain as to how long it will still be offered to employers.
Safety groups are still up and running – for 2013. Safety groups are fairly popular and well established in Ontario and offer participating organizations up to a 6 percent rebate off the annual WSIB programs. In conversations with several consultants this year I’ve heard that this might be the last year that organizations are able to take advantage of this program and its associated rebates. The unfunded liability of the WSIB that is driving up employer premiums also implicates the end of rebates such as these for employers.
WSIB Workwell Audit changes
Changes around the Workwell Audit Process may also be underway. Through conversations with various Health and Safety consultants and professionals, I’ve heard that organizations may receive a visit from WSIB that is NOT for a Workwell Audit, but a “Health and Safety Performance Review.” This evaluation involves a four hour visit, a review of your Health and Safety Program, tour of your facility and conversations with employees. It will result in a plan for your organization to improve its Health and Safety Program. This information is not coming from an authoritative source at the WSIB – but changes may be in process, including the withdrawal of threat of extensive penalties linked to the previous format of Workwell Audits.
Continued Integration of Health and Safety Ontario (HSO) Associations and subsidized delivery of health and safety education and training
HSO is comprised of: Infrastructure Health and Safety Association, Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA), Workplace Safety North and Workplace Safety and Prevention Services. Every industry in Ontario is associated with one of these groups and has available to them a basic consultation that can assist them with the development of a basic health and safety program, providing specific information for their industry, identifying and facilitating solutions and assessing training needs. My organization belongs to the PSHSA and I’ve been able to find many training and educational resources. For example the PSHSA has day long training opportunities as low $20/day, free fact sheets and free webinars that are often related to upcoming Ministry of Labour Health and Safety blitzes.
There is still a lot of overlap in prevention activities in Ontario with the WSIB, Health and Safety Ontario and the Ministry of Labour all engaged in prevention activities including training and education. Under An Act to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 with respect to occupational health and safety and other matters (formerly Bill 160) the MOL is supposed to take responsibility for prevention-program delivery. The Chief Prevention Officer George Gritziotis is still in the process of co-ordinating and aligning a province-wide health and safety and prevention strategy.
It is evident that the prevention efforts in Ontario are still in transition from WSIB to the MOL. If you have any comments you would like to share it would be interesting and informative to hear about others’ experiences and perspectives regarding these changes.
M.A., CHRP Candidate
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