As of July 1, company executives now face much stiffer fines for infractions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The new penalty provisions in Schedule 4 of the Working for Workers Act, 2022 are currently in effect, increasing maximum fines for directors or officers of a corporation from $100,000 to $1,500,000, and to $500,000 for other individuals.*
The bill also sets out 10 aggravating factors, including lack of remorse or a desire to increase revenue or decrease costs, that can affect the size of the penalty.
"The changes provide extra motivation for directors and officers to ensure every reasonable precaution is being taken to protect workers," says WSPS Account Manager Martin Berthelot. "If charges arise, they need to be able to prove that."
To avoid penalties, Martin recommends that directors and officers ensure their workplace is taking a systematic approach to health and safety. Whether a formal health and safety management system (such as ISO 45001) or an informal one, it needs to include these seven elements, says Martin.
- A strong internal responsibility system (IRS). Under the IRS, everyone in the workplace has direct responsibility for health and safety, working individually and together. All workplace parties must clearly understand their roles and responsibilities under the IRS and have the training and skills to carry them out.
- An understanding of the Act, and compliance requirements. Basic requirements include developing and posting policies on health and safety, violence and harassment, injury reporting, and more. Other requirements will be based on the activities carried out by the company, the hazards identified, and the corresponding sections of the Act. "Take a look at the rules you have in place and measure them against the legal requirements," says Martin.
- Hazard assessments. "Determine all the ways in which people can get hurt," says Martin. "What is the likelihood of an injury happening and how severe could it be? Consider all situations: normal operations as well as during maintenance, shutdowns, power outages, emergencies, extreme weather, and so on."
- Controls and safe work procedures. The best approach to managing hazards is by applying the hierarchy of controls. Protect against the highest risks first, suggests Martin. "Don't just do the minimum; make sure you are really good at protecting against those high risks, so that no one gets seriously injured, reducing the likelihood of charges and penalties."
- Training. Basic health and safety awareness training is mandatory for workers and supervisors, and two members of the joint health and safety committee (JHSC) - one worker rep and one management rep - must be certified. "I recommend extra training for supervisors," says Martin, "because of their vital role in preventing incidents by advising, monitoring, and correcting workers and providing ongoing training through safety talks."
- Reporting structures. It's important for directors and officers to know what's going on in their workplace, says Martin. "Develop a process that allows senior management to be regularly updated." This can take the form of monthly or quarterly reports and presentations from the health and safety department, HR, and/or supervisors.
- Documentation. In the event of an incident, all eyes will be on what actions the workplace and its directors took to prevent it. Written proof of policies, controls, safe work procedures, hazard assessments, training, and all other health and safety activities can help establish due diligence.
How WSPS can help
Our consultants can carry out hazard and risk assessments of your workplace and recommend controls. To learn more, connect with a consultant.
- Hazard Identification, Assessment and Control (3-hour eCourse)
- Supervisor Responsibilities and Due Diligence (half-day eCourse)
- JHSC Certification Training, Parts 1 and 2
- Health and Safety Awareness for Ontario Workers (1-hour eCourse)
- Health and Safety Awareness for Ontario Supervisors (1-hour eCourse)
- Duties & Responsibilities: for Employers (video)
- OHSA Ontario & Employers Responsibilities (article)
- Small Business Hazard Assessment Tool
- Make robust hazard assessments your new compliance tool (article)
- Pocket Ontario OH&S Act & Regulations 2022 (Consolidated Edition)
The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.