Have your say on a new provincial OHS strategy

Apr 22, 2013

People sharing informationOntario's Ministry of Labour is inviting public input as it formulates the province's first system-wide integrated occupational health and safety strategy. Deadline for input is May 17.

To encourage input, the ministry has posted a consultation document that starts with a vision of zero work related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. To achieve this vision, the document sets out 10 priorities under three themes:

  • support for those who are most in need
  • enhanced service delivery
  • meeting changing individual and organizational needs.

The priorities result from recommendations made by the Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety1 and previous discussions with stakeholders.

The priorities will be of interest to various stakeholders, including workplaces, organized labour, health and safety associations, research agencies, and others. Among those that may be of particular interest to workplaces are

  1. Addressing the needs of vulnerable workers
  2. Responding to small business needs
  3. Assistance for high-hazard activities
  6. Effective support for workplaces
  8. Effective financial & non-financial motivators
10. Effective means for measuring performance.

The table below provides an at-a-glance summary of the priorities, the driving issues behind the priorities, and questions for consideration.
 

Priorities

Issue or Concern

Questions

1. Addressing the needs of vulnerable workers*

 

Vulnerable workers are more likely to be exposed to hazardous conditions and have less control over these conditions. Engaging these workers has been challenging. Traditional mechanisms for reaching workers may not be as effective for this group. 1A: How can the voices of vulnerable workers be brought into the occupational health and safety (OHS) discussion to better understand their needs?

1B: How can we strengthen the OHS of vulnerable workers?
2. Responding to small business needs

 

Small businesses employ more than a third of Ontario workers, yet face significant challenges in implementing OHS programs. Furthermore, few small businesses have relationships with system partners that could provide support.

 

2A: What can help small businesses and their workers have safe and healthy workplaces?

2B: How can the OHS system partners work with established networks to identify the needs of small businesses and better understand how to address them?
3. Assistance for high-hazard activities

 

Workers who enter a hazardous situation without adequate training, supervision, or safety equipment risk serious injury, illness, or death. This is why it has been recommended that training and preparation to undertake high-hazard work be more rigorous and standardized.

 

3A: How do you define high-hazard activities? For example, would the definition be based more on the seriousness of the potential injury or illness, or the potential frequency of injury or illness? Would it be based on other criteria?

3B: What high-hazard activities should be subject to more rigorous training standards, assurance of compliance or ministry enforcement?

3C: What concerns and challenges do you see for the Ministry of Labour in implementing industry-wide training on specific tasks that have been defined as high-hazard?
4. Integrated planning & service delivery model

 

An integrated planning and service delivery model would result in OHS system partners working more effectively together, both across the system and with workplaces and other stakeholders. It could also help address gaps in current service offerings. 4A: What are the highest priority gaps in OHS system service delivery that need to be addressed?

4B: How can we align system partners and other organizations to improve service delivery? Can you provide examples?
5. Expanding capacity through innovative partnerships

 

Reaching more workers and businesses requires us to partner within our traditional OHS system, as well as develop innovative relationships with educators, community agencies, other levels of government, and the private sector. Innovative partnerships can improve system capacity to deliver programs and services.
 
5A: What new partnerships could advance OHS?

5B: What innovative approaches could expand the reach of current OHS efforts?
6. Effective support for workplaces

 

The Internal Responsibility System (IRS) gives everyone in the workplace ways to participate as well as responsibilities in line with their roles and functions. The right balance of responsibility and the delivery of supports and services to workplaces can play a key role in promoting positive OHS outcomes.

 

6A: What products and services could help your workplace to become self-reliant in achieving compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations?

6B: What could improve access to products and services?

6C: What assistance could the system provide to help workplaces strengthen their IRS?
7. Addressing occupational disease

 

In Ontario, far more people die from work-related illness than on-the-job injuries. Preventing occupational diseases will reduce deaths and disability, help improve workers’ overall health and wellness, reduce the burden on family members, and lower health care and compensation costs.
 
7. What additional steps could the OHS system take to protect workers from occupational disease?

 

8. Effective financial & non-financial motivators

 

Programs that offer motivators can influence workplace prevention activities in a number of ways. These programs include safety, performance, procurement, and other business related practices.

 

8A: How could prevention programs use motivators (positive and negative) to improve workplace OHS performance?

8B: Are there motivators other than financial that will attract a company’s participation in OHS programs? How could a non-financial incentive program attract participants and assist in motivating better performance?
9. Research supporting system improvement

 

Traditionally, research funding has gone largely to basic (discovery) research, but governments are now recognizing the importance of applied (translational) research aimed at developing new products, services, innovations and solutions. For example, research can help us understand what programs and policies do or do not generate the desired outcomes. 9A: What should be the strategic objectives of OHS research in Ontario?

9B: How can we best align research with the OHS needs of the workplace?

9C: What could be done to better implement research findings?
10. Effective financial & non-financial motivators

 

The system has historically relied on lagging indicators, which measure outcomes or incidents after the occurrence (e.g., fatalities, injuries and claims). While lagging indicators will remain an important assessment tool, leading indicators, which measure pro-active work done to prevent injuries and illnesses, can help us identify emerging trends and focus on tomorrow’s needs.
 
10A: What are the right outcomes to measure that would result in a common vision of success for the OHS system?

10B: What leading indicators does your organization use, and what methods are used to measure them?


The ministry’s next steps include incorporating consultation feedback, research and evidence into a draft strategy, publishing the strategy, and consulting with stakeholders on implementation.

*According to the consultation documents, a person who may be “vulnerable” includes but is not limited to young workers, recent immigrants, aboriginal peoples, older workers, those new to their jobs or working for new businesses, temporary foreign and seasonal workers, workers holding multiple, part-time or low-paying jobs, and workers involved in temporary employment.

1In December 2010, the panel released a report containing 46 recommendations, all of which were accepted by the government. Read more about the panel and its report.

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