Member firm briefing: Ontario's prevention program review

Apr 22, 2013

Progress in Action signA review of Ontario's prevention programming now underway could lead to changes that will benefit Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS)'s member firms. HSO Network Magazine spoke with Cordelia Clarke Julien, director of training and safety programs in the Ministry of Labour's recently established Prevention Office about the review and its anticipated contributions to health and safety in Ontario. Find out how your workplace could benefit from these changes.

The back story

In January 2010, the ministry appointed an expert advisory panel to review Ontario's workplace health and safety system and recommend structural, operational and policy improvements. Comprising representatives from labour, employers and academia, the panel sought what it termed as "the best mix of high-value opportunities for change."

In December 2010, after extensive consultations with stakeholders, the panel submitted 46 tactical and strategic recommendations. The then minister accepted all 46. Among the recommendations:

  • realign the provincial prevention mandate, more closely integrating prevention activities, clearly defining roles, and establishing greater accountability to a single chief executive responsible for prevention
  • create a new prevention organization headed by a chief prevention officer whose responsibilities would include developing a system-wide strategic plan
  • strengthen the Internal Responsibility System in ways that promote a workplace health and safety culture, and ensure workplace parties know and understand their rights and responsibilities
  • create and implement training standards
  • review, revise and develop incentive and accreditation programs.

Work on the 46 recommendations is underway or has already been completed. Labour minister Yasir Naqvi describes the process as “the greatest revitalization of Ontario workplace health and safety in three decades.

Who’s conducting the review

Although the Ministry of Labour is managing the process, much of the development work is being done by workplace parties and supported by system partners, explains Cordelia Clarke Julien. “It’s about stakeholders saying, ‘This is what will work for us, this is what we want to happen, and these are our standards.’”

In this context, the ministry will be balancing the needs of stakeholders while ensuring its own priorities are taken into account, such as enhancing the health and safety of vulnerable workers and small business. Clarke Julien explains, "Above all else, the ministry's role in this process is to facilitate everyone talking to each other and ensuring programming options are meeting our stated objectives."

Although the Ministry of Labour is managing the process, much of the development work is being done by workplace parties and supported by system partners.

Cordelia Clarke Julien, Ministry of Labour

What the program review involves

Clarke Julien describes the review in terms of four streams of varying scope and duration.

Stream A involves studying existing programs that have prevention-based components with the intent of introducing a pilot program in 2014. "We're not looking at getting rid of everything and starting over," says Clarke Julien. "The intent is to take what's working well and build on that to meet the prevention mandate. This may be done in another form." Among the review considerations are

  • what best motivates workplaces. "If you use the word 'incentives,' people automatically think 'money.' But there are other motivators we can look at, such as government procurement policies that take into account the health and safety performance of suppliers."
  • how to move from output-based to outcome-based programs. For example, creating programs that enable workplaces to identify what changes have occurred as a result of the program, and demonstrate the effect they've had on health and safety.

Benefit to workplaces: results-oriented programming with motivators that promote change. "This is part and parcel of a bigger change initiative," says Clarke Julien. "Health and safety makes good business sense, and we would like it to become a part of everyday thinking, not 'Oh, I'm mandated to do this. I better get it done.'"

Examples of existing incentive programs, all managed by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), include:

  • Safe Communities Incentive Program (SCIP), a two-part program for small business. Part One creates awareness of workplace risks and small businesses' legal requirements. Firms that meet program requirements are eligible for a 5% rebate on workers compensation premiums. Part Two helps businesses develop an effective health and safety program. Firms can receive up to an additional 5% rebate.
  • Safety Groups Program, a performance-based group incentive program run by sponsors such as Workplace Safety & Prevention Services. Participating workplaces implement five key elements of a safety program over the course of a calendar year. Participating workplaces that collectively reduce their injury frequency and severity rates receive a group rebate of up to 6% on their compensation premiums. Learn more about the features and benefits of WSPS's Safety Group.
  • Workwell health and safety performance review. The WSIB conducts on-site evaluations of workplaces whose injury experience indicates a higher risk of injury compared to other workplaces performing similar work. These evaluations help workplaces identify weaknesses in their health and safety programs and practices. Workplaces that do not improve their program before a second evaluation face a one-time increase to their compensation premiums.

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