A draft bill that received first reading in the Ontario Legislature on December 4 would offer greater protection to two vulnerable groups of workers: unpaid learners and temporary workers from temporary help agencies. If the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Workplace Safety and Insurance Act apply to your workplace, these changes would affect you.
Under Bill 146, Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2013, unpaid learners include co-op students, trainees and interns. These workers are not covered under the Occupational Health and Safety Act in its current form. However, Bill 146 would amend the act's definition of "worker" to include these unpaid learners. It "absolutely makes sense" that these workers would have the same rights and protections as other workers, said Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi in the legislature.
As for temporary workers, Bill 146 would amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act to make clients of temporary help agencies responsible for the injury costs of temporary workers. At present, the act considers agencies and not the client companies to be the temporary workers' employer.
This change would protect temporary workers in two ways. It would
encourage client companies to provide and maintain safe and healthy working conditions for all workers in their workplaces, including temporary workers
eliminate a potential incentive for client companies to contract out more dangerous work to temporary help agencies.
No date has been set for when these changes would take effect. Before a bill becomes law, it must successfully pass through certain stages, including a second reading, review by committee, third reading, a final vote, and Royal Assent.
Watch for status reports on Bill 146 in upcoming issues of WSPS Network News.
How employers can prepare
Workers who are new to your workplace are three times more likely to be injured on the job during the first month of employment than at any other time.
Here's a sampling of ways in which you can protect these workers and prepare for the changes:
Inform yourself about the contents and intent of Bill 146
Make your organization aware of the proposed changes and their impact.
Review your health and safety management system for opportunities to improve protection for temporary and unpaid workers. For example:
ensure all employees understand their roles and responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act
provide the same orientation training to unpaid and temporary workers as you would to any new worker
assess the job and hazard-specific training needs of unpaid and temporary workers, fill any identified training gaps, and integrate these workers into ongoing training and educational activities
encourage them to ask questions and express concerns
create a buddy system that pairs them with seasoned employees.
How WSPS can help
From comprehensive course offerings to consulting expertise, Workplace Safety & Prevention Services can help you achieve Bill 146's goal of creating and sustaining a safe, healthy and productive workplace for all workers. For example: