Ontario proposes mandatory health and safety training

Jan 22, 2013

Ontario proposes mandatory health and safety trainingThe province’s Ministry of Labour is seeking input on a proposed regulation that would make specific training mandatory for all workplaces covered under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The first training to be specified: occupational health and safety awareness for workers and supervisors. The ministry anticipates filing the regulation by July 1, 2013, and having it come into force on January 1, 2014. Other types of mandatory training would follow.

Read on for more about

  • what the regulation would achieve
  • how it came about
  • content requirements
  • what would be expected of employers
  • resources to help employers comply
  • how to comment on the regulation
  • CSA’s soon to be released training standard.

What the regulation would achieve

“In one sentence,” says WSPS healthy workplace specialist Andrew Harkness, “occupational health and safety awareness training will encourage workers and supervisors to participate more in protecting themselves and the people they work with.

“In day-to-day terms, it will help them recognize hazards and follow safe work practices. From a broader perspective, workplaces need to provide workers and supervisors with the basics before offering more specialized training.

“It’s like building a house without a foundation. Basic awareness training in conjunction with higher levels of training will help reinforce the workplace’s health and safety culture and reduce the emotional and financial toll of injuries. It will also help all workplace parties meet their duties under the act. It’s a building blocks approach.”

How it came about

The regulation comes in response to two recommendations made in December 2010 by the Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety. The recommendations resulted from a comprehensive review of Ontario’s occupational health and safety system. The non-partisan panel included representatives from labour, employers and leading academics who together conducted a series of public consultations.

According to the panel’s report, its consultations revealed

  • “a lack of foundational, basic information among workers about the existence of “the green book,” that Ontario has an Occupational Health and Safety Act; and that owners, employers, supervisors and workers all have rights and responsibilities. In the view of the Panel, everyone needs to be aware of these rights and responsibilities, regardless of their role within the workplace.”
  • “how pivotal the supervisory role is in setting the tone of health and safety in a workplace or on a job site. Supervisors are instrumental in reinforcing safe work procedures and in establishing a culture of safety. However, the Panel also heard that, due to an absence of information and training, many supervisors are not prepared for this responsibility. It is imperative that supervisors have, at a minimum, a basic understanding of workplace health and safety and of their responsibilities under the legislation.”

The panel made a total of 45 recommendations, which the Ministry of Labour committed almost immediately to implementing. Within three months, the labour minister at the time introduced legislative amendments that would bring Ontario one step closer to what he described as “the first major review and the largest overhaul of Ontario’s occupational health and safety system in 30 years.”

Proposed content requirements: occupational health and safety awareness training

The table below outlines proposed content for the first mandatory training to be specified under the regulation.

Workers Supervisors
  • Rights and responsibilities of workers and supervisors under the Occupational Health and Safety Act
  • Roles of workplace parties, health and safety representatives, and joint health and safety committees
  • Roles of the Ministry of Labour, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and health and safety partners, including WSPS
  • Hazard recognition
  • Right to be informed of hazards
  • Reference to an employer’s obligations to provide information and instruction to workers about controlled products as required under Regulation 860 (WHMIS) of the act
  • Latency and illness related to occupational disease
  • Recognition, assessment, control and evaluation of hazards
  • Where resources and assistance are available


What would be expected of employers

The regulation would require employers to

  • provide basic health and safety training to
    • all workers and supervisors already in place
    • new workers who have not already completed an awareness training program, as soon as practicable after commencing work duties
    • new supervisors who have not already completed an awareness training program, within the first week of assuming supervisory duties
  • maintain training records of completion to demonstrate compliance with the requirements.

The regulation would NOT require employers to retrain workers or supervisors who had taken the training elsewhere. However, it would require these employers to verify that the training has occurred and has met minimum proposed requirements.

Employers who ensure that their workers and/or supervisors have completed awareness training programs that met the minimum proposed regulatory requirements prior to the effective date of the new requirement would already be considered to be in compliance.

Resources to help employers comply

The Ministry of Labour has free, downloadable prevention awareness resources in place now that could help employers meet the requirements. These include:

  • Worker Health and Safety Awareness in 4 Steps, a workbook and employer guide
  • Supervisor Health and Safety Awareness in 5 Steps, a workbook and guide that was piloted in December 2012 and will be launched early this year. The piloted version is available for downloading.
  • Health and Safety at Work: Prevention Starts Here. Displaying this poster in workplaces has been mandatory since October 1, 2012

How to comment on the regulation

In addition to comments and feedback on the regulatory proposal, the Ministry invites suggestions on worker and supervisor access to their training records, for example, when they change employers. “We’d appreciate hearing about how your organization deals with access to training records currently, and any other thoughts or creative ideas that you may have on this issue,” says the proposal.

The consultation period ends February 4, 2013. Submissions may be mailed or sent electronically to addresses appearing on the regulation’s web page.

CSA’s soon to be released training standard

Watch for a new occupational health and safety training standard from CSA, expected to be released this year.

CSA’s upcoming Z1001 – Occupational Health and Safety Training will provide workplaces with the essentials of managing a health and safety training program, help them evaluate potential training programs, and select and evaluate training providers. At present there are no general standards for this topic.

Coverage of the proposed training regulation and how to comply with it will continue in upcoming issues of HSO Network News and Magazine.