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Understanding the Legislation

Learn about Ontario's Occupational Health & Safety Act & Canada Labour Code

We all have duties and responsibilities to understand the relevant health and safety legislation; being unaware of your legal responsibilities and duties is not a defense for failure to comply.

Ontario employers and workers have legal roles and responsibilities under a number of different pieces of legislation, including Ontario's Occupational Health & Safety Act, and for some workplaces, the Canada Labour Code.

Occupational Health & Safety Act

Ontario's Occupational Health & Safety Act sets out the rights and duties of all workplace parties with one main principle: workers, supervisors and employers share the responsibility for health and safety in the workplace.

Under the Occupational Health & Safety Act:

  • Employers have a duty to provide information, instruction and supervision to workers, advise workers about hazards in the workplace and notify the Ministry of Labour inspectors of workplace fatalities and critical injuries.
  • Employers with six or more regularly employed workers also have to develop an occupational health and safety policy and program.
  • Workers have the right to participate in decisions about health and safety at the workplace, to know about workplace hazards, and to refuse unsafe work.
  • Ministry of Labour inspectors have the authority to inspect workplaces to ensure compliance with the Occupational Health & Safety Act, and to investigate complaints, critical injuries and fatalities.

Purchase your copy of the Pocket Ontario OH&S Act & Regulations 2021.

Canada Labour Code

Ontario workplaces with Canadian Federal Government employees, or employees within a company or sector that operates across provincial or international borders, are subject to the Canada Labour Code, Part II. Workplaces that are subject to the Canada Labour Code include:

  • Airports
  • Banks
  • Canals
  • Exploration and development of petroleum on lands subject to federal jurisdiction
  • Ferries
  • Tunnels and bridges
  • Grain elevators licensed by the Canadian Grain Commission, and certain feed mills and feed warehouses, flour mills and grain seed cleaning plants
  • Highway transport
  • Pipelines
  • Radio and television broadcasting and cable systems
  • Railways
  • Shipping and shipping services
  • Telephone and telegraph systems

Under the Canada Labour Code:

  • Employers have a general obligation or duty to ensure that the health and safety of every person they employ is protected while they are working.
  • Employees have responsibilities to take all reasonable and necessary precautions for their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by their work or activities.

Get our help with understanding the Canada Labour Code through our specialized training and consulting services.

Other Forms of Legislation

There are a number of other forms of legislation you need to be aware of, including the Employment Standards Act , Ontario Human Rights Code and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act. The government of Ontario’s eLaws website allows you access these and other legislation, including the Technical Standards and Safety Authority, Electrical Standards Authority, Fire Code, Building Code and WSIB Act.

Stay Informed & Up to Date

WSPS is here to help you understand your roles and responsibilities under the legislation – and we’ll keep you updated about ongoing changes to the legislation.

Learn more about our legislation tracker, webinars, articles and how you can get one-on-one support from our duty consultants.