The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) is Ontario's cornerstone legislation for workplace health and safety. Other contributing legislation includes the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA), Part II of which deals with the prevention of occupational injury and disease and the Human Rights Code, which often has to be considered in dealing with OHS issues. Both OHSA and WSIA are available along with all of Ontario's other Acts and regulations at the e-Laws website.
The main purpose of the Act is to protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job. It sets out duties for all workplace parties and rights for workers. It establishes procedures for dealing with workplace hazards and provides for enforcement of the law where compliance has not been achieved voluntarily. Fundamental to the successful working of OHSA is the workplace Internal Responsibility System (IRS).
More about the OHSA.
OHSA applies to almost every worker, supervisor, employer and workplace in Ontario, including workplace owners, constructors and suppliers of equipment or materials to workplaces covered by the Act.
OHSA does not apply to:
Federally incorporated businesses are those businesses that are working for the common good of at least two provinces and are outside the exclusive legislative authority of any one province. They are subject to provincial employment laws if they are not operating with these 15 major sectors.
Regulations made under OHSA may be sector, work or hazard specific. Sector-specific regulations apply to a particular industrial sector. There are sector-specific regulations for:
Examples of work that is covered by a specific regulation are:
Among the hazard-specific regulations are the 12 designated substance regulations (DSRs), which apply to specific chemical substances such as asbestos, lead and vinyl chloride. A second chemical hazard regulation is the Regulation respecting the Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents, which prescribes occupational exposure limits (OELs) for about 700 substances. Other hazard-specific regulations deal with X-ray safety and roll-over protection.
There is also a fourth set of regulations that doesn't fall neatly into these categories. Some clarify requirements in OHSA, such as defining "critical injury" or specifying that the employer must pay for JHSC member certification training. Others extend the application of OHSA; examples are the regulations for farming opertions, for teachers and for university academics and teaching assistants. The most far-reaching of these regulations is the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) regulation.
The Ministry's goal is for all workplaces to achieve self-compliance with OHSA and regulations through a well-functioning Internal Responsibility System (IRS). Where this does not happen, progressive enforcement results. Enforcement begins with the issuing of orders and may proceed to prosecution.
Inspectors are the enforcement arm of the Ministry of Labour; their role includes the following:
The powers an inspector may use to fulfil this role are set out in OHSA Sections 54 to 57. A prosecution may be initiated against anyone having duties mentioned in OHSA Sections 23 to 32, including a:
The maximum penalties for a contravention of OHSA or its regulations are set out in OHSA Section 66. A successful prosecution could, for each conviction, result in:
The IRS gives everyone within an organization direct responsibility for health and safety as an essential part of his or her job. It does not matter who or where the person is in the organization, they achieve health and safety in a way that suits the kind of work they do. Each person takes initiative on health and safety issues and works to solve problems and make improvements on an ongoing basis. They do this both singly and co-operatively with others. Successful implementation of the IRS should result in progressively longer intervals between accidents or work-related illnesses.