Live Chat
Skip to main content

Vulnerable Workers Health and Safety Awareness

Vulnerable workers

What are vulnerable workers?

Vulnerable workers are those who recently moved to Ontario from another province or country, have just started their first job, or are returning to the workforce after a long absence. Vulnerable workers also include people who work in an “underground” economy, especially those who do not have documentation, who are refugees, or whose English language skills are inadequate.

What the law says

Sections 25 and 27 of Ontario's Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA) sets out responsibilities for employers and supervisors:

  • Ensuring equipment, materials and protective devices are provided and maintained
  • Letting workers know about any potential or actual dangers in the workplace
  • Informing, instructing, supervising workers to protect their health and safety
  • Hiring supervisors that are competent
  • Assisting and co-operating with joint health and safety committees or worker representatives
  • Taking every precaution reasonable for the protection of a worker
  • Ensuring that workers comply with provisions of the OHSA

Workers have rights and responsibilities under OHSA as well. These include:

  • the right to know about hazards and how to prevent injuries caused by them
  • the right to participate in health and safety activities in the workplace
  • the right to refuse work that is dangerous or unsafe to you or others
  • the responsibility to use machinery and equipment in the way in which they are trained
  • the responsibility to report hazards to a supervisor or employer
  • the responsibility to use or wear personal protective devices

How vulnerable workers can affect your business

Health and safety should be considered an investment. Firms that operate in a healthy and safe way benefit in many ways, including improving their bottom line and employee morale. Vulnerable workers may be more exposed to injury and illness than other workers because of their lack of experience, reluctance to ask questions, communication barriers, and the type of work they do. The business justification includes:

  • compliance with the law
  • cost reduction
  • business interruption protection
  • employee relations improvement
  • reliability and productivity improvement
  • public trust
  • organization capability

What you can do

  • Establish procedures and measures for workplace health and safety and ensure that they are always followed
  • Ensure equipment and personal protective equipment is provided and maintained properly
  • Ensure that all hazards, illnesses and injuries are reported immediately
  • Identify hazards in the workplace and provide training/instruction on how to handle them
  • Provide proper and ongoing training
  • Respond promptly to all health and safety concerns
  • Lead by example: use and wear safety equipment when required, and participate in drills and other emergency response training