Prevention Works, Ontario's ambitious new 5-year health and safety strategy, offers help for employers in the form of more targeted and affordable training options, new prevention strategies based on highest risk, more resources for small businesses, and action on such key issues as occupational illness, work-related mental health, and workplace violence and harassment.
Developed after extensive research and consultation, Prevention Works sets out four objectives. The first, underlying all of the activities outlined in the document, is to develop an evidence-based approach to better target, develop, implement, monitor and evaluate programs.
This means no more "reactive" reliance on injury and lost-time data, says William Roy, Director, Strategy and Integration Branch, Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. "We need to approach everything with evidence and focus on where we can make the most impact."
The other objectives are to improve health and safety knowledge and practices, help workplace parties fulfill their health and safety roles and responsibilities and achieve excellence, and make health and safety easier and more accessible for small businesses.
As the strategy unfolds over the next five years, it will offer Ontario workplaces these benefits and more:
- more actionable information on top safety risks by sector and how to control them. The ministry and health and safety associations have begun conducting sector-level risk assessments and root cause analyses to identify the top risks for injury, illness or death and the most effective control measures. "The risk assessments provide a beautiful roadmap," says William. WSPS is gearing up to carry out this work in the manufacturing, service and agriculture sectors in 2022, and will apply lessons learned for the greenhouse sector.
- more targeted, affordable and consistent training. Research and longitudinal studies will help gauge the effectiveness of existing training programs and identify the best learning styles for various workplace parties. "We will also be drawing from risk assessments and root cause analyses to ensure we provide a clear curriculum and learning objectives for training providers," says William. More affordable online options are also being explored.
- more effective joint health and safety committees (JHSCs). A review of the JHSC certification training standards will ensure that the JHSC program and its delivery remain relevant and effective. The review will gather relevant research and data, as well as the perspectives of those impacted by the training, including employers, learners, instructors and training providers, to identify the need for any changes to the standards.
- more support for small businesses. A province-wide survey with focus groups will look at such issues as "What makes it challenging for small business to invest in health and safety? What resources do they need? How can we best support their health and safety efforts?" Survey results are expected by spring 2022. The province will also develop affordable resources tailored to the specific needs of small businesses. One example is a new online workplace safety plan builder, particularly useful for small businesses. The safety plan builder leads users through an easy three-step process to develop a customized plan for their business.
- accreditation and rebates through the WSIB Health & Safety Excellence program. The province and health and safety associations will be doubling down on promoting the advantages of participation in this innovative program offering expert guidance and resources to help employers reduce injuries and illness. Workplaces accredited through the program earn WSIB rebates. A pilot project will introduce 500 small businesses to the program, says William.
- more help dealing with occupational disease, work-related mental health, and violence and harassment. COVID-19 has brought all of these issues to the forefront. Prevention Works promises continued support for workplaces and workers dealing with COVID-19 and future occupational diseases, and better access to resources on work-related mental health, harassment and violence being developed by system partners such as WSPS.
How WSPS can help
- WSIB Health and Safety Excellence program - as a WSPS is an approved provider, we can help you develop a health and safety program tailored to your business.
- Our Small Business Centre offers free advice and education for businesses with fewer than 50 employees, including a Safety Road Map, advisory service, safety podcasts, and COVID-19 resources.
- Our new Resource Hub offers for a wide range of resources - tools, checklists, guidelines, training courses - to prevent injuries, illnesses and mental harm.