Some small business owners believe they'll escape the notice of Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspectors who surely have bigger fish to fry. The truth is that the MOL inspectors can't take their eyes off small businesses - and no wonder. You comprise 90 per cent of Ontario firms and one-third of its workforce.
No matter how small your business is, you are held accountable for keeping employees safe. And keeping them safe means empowering them to recognize risks and act in their best interests.
How to "do it" is the second of six critical steps to an effective health and safety program, designed by our trusted health and safety provider, Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS).
What is the "it" you need to do? Identify and control your hazards, certainly - and we address hazard assessments in step four: "Watch for It" - but the prelude to hazard assessments is a deep commitment to training your staff.
Your commitment to training needs to be deep for two reasons.
One, health and safety training is a legal requirement. And two, doing it incorrectly or inefficiently is a colossal waste of time and money, something no business, large or small, can afford.
What the law says
Mandatory training under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) depends on your type of business, and includes:
Ministry of Labour Health and Safety Awareness Training for Workers and Supervisors (available at no cost at www.labour.gov.on.ca), which must include instruction on these elements, under the OHSA:
the duties and rights of workers and supervisors under the OHSA
common workplace hazards and occupational illnesses, an dhow to identify, assess and manage them
the role of joint health and safety committees (JHSCs) and of health and safety representatives
the roles of the MOL, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), and Health and Safety Associations
information and instruction requirements set out in the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) Regulation
sources of information on occupational health and safety.
First Aid for a minimum of one worker per shift.
Use of required personal protective equipment.
Under the law, organizations with twenty or more employees must have an active Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC), and certify at least two members (one worker and one manager).
Workplaces with six to nineteen staff must select a health and safety representative: an individual who is committed to improving prevention in the workplace, and capable of fulfilling the same responsibilities and powers assigned to JHSCs in larger organizations.
Certification requires the completion of Part One (basic training) and Part Two (workplace-specific hazard training) of Ontario's certification training standard under the OHSA.
You'll find helpful links and downloads in the WSPS Roadmap for Small Business (look for it on www.wsps.ca/smallbusiness).
How to "Do It"
Here are three strategies to keep your valuable, skilled employees doing profitable work safely in a tough competitive environment.
Never assume: The single most damaging mistake small (and large) business owners and managers make is assuming people already know what to do. "There's a perception that this task is common sense or that they should already know how to do it from previous jobs or training, and therefore I shouldn't need to train on it," says Paul Mansfield, Account Manager at WSPS. "Never assume that your life experience is remotely close to another person's. Instead, assume this person has never done this before. Especially if you're training a young and vulnerable worker."
Close all training gaps: Assess your workers' knowledge and skills within the context of any newly assigned job responsibilities. Make sure they understand the hazards, and are trained on every task they are expected to perform (don't neglect to document these activities). Put extra effort into training new and young workers, who are four times more likely to be injured in the first 28 days on the job: they are often eager to prove themselves, oblivious to risks, and convinced they are invincible. They may not know it, but they depend on you to keep them safe.
Make your training sticky: Help employees remember what they've learned by explaining how the training will affect their well-being and success on the job. Connect the training to the organization's health and safety goals. Be clear about expectations and conditions of employment. Banish distractions like cell phones from training venues. In the days and weeks after the training, ask workers to recall and demonstrate what they learned.
Let's make this easier
You deserve to be on the simplest, fastest path to a healthy, safe and productive workforce. Check out all six steps to an effective health and safety program in the "Roadmap," "How-To Guide," and other resources offered on the WSPS Small Business Safety Made Easy, and find out how to get it, do it, write it down, watch for it, report it, and find it.