Ontario Chief Prevention Officer George Gritziotis has assigned two new task groups to consult and provide advice on vulnerable workers and about small business. Each task group has 12 members: six worker representatives and six employer representatives. They will study the issues, gather information, and report back over a period of not more than 30 months.
Creating the task groups was among recommendations made by the Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety in its 2010 report. In preparing its report, the non-partisan panel conducted public consultations across the province.
Why vulnerable workers
The panel defined vulnerable workers as “those who have a greater exposure than most workers to conditions hazardous to health or safety and who lack the power to alter those conditions.” This primarily translates into
workers new to their jobs or in new firms
foreign workers hired to address temporary or seasonal labour shortages, and employed primarily in agriculture, the hotel/hospitality and construction sectors
workers with very low wages holding multiple part-time jobs
workers in the temporary staffing industry.
They are vulnerable, said the panel, for various reasons: not knowing their rights under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, having no work experience or training that is job- or hazard-specific, and being unable to exercise rights or raise health and safety concerns for fear of losing their job, or in some cases, being deported.
Why small business
Small businesses present unique challenges to implementing health and safety in the workplace. For example, owners have limited human resource capacity to apply time and effort to it, and there are few resources that are relevant to the language, culture and business/organizational situation of small businesses.
As a consequence of these challenges, workers in small business are at risk for the same reasons as vulnerable workers.
Find out more about these two new task groups, including their members, on the ministry’s web page.