Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) imposes duties on employers, constructors, supervisors, owners, suppliers, licensees, officers of a corporation and workers, among others. Part III of the Act specifies the general duties of these workplace parties.
An Ontario employer, who is covered by the OHSA, has a range of legal obligations, including the obligation to:
Please note that some employer duties make reference to prescribed requirements. For example, clause 25(1)( c) of the OHSA requires that employers carry out any measures and procedures that are prescribed for the workplace. “Prescribed” means specified in regulation. Where a regulation specifies measures and procedures for a specific type of workplace (e.g. an industrial establishment), the employer is required to carry out those measures and procedures.
A complete list of OHSA regulations can be viewed on the Ministry of Labour website.
Employers have specific duties regarding workplace violence and workplace harassment. Please see Part III.0.I of this Guide for more information.
In workplaces where there are toxic or hazardous substances, the employer has many specific duties. These are described in detail in Part IV - Toxic Substances.
The Act sets out certain specific duties for workplace supervisors. A supervisor must:
A supervisor is a person appointed by the employer who has charge of a workplace or authority over a worker [subsection 1 (1)].
Workers are often asked to act as supervisors in the absence of persons hired in that capacity, particularly those identified by such terms as senior, charge, or lead hands. Despite the term used, it is very important to understand that if a worker or lead hand has been given “charge of a workplace or authority over a worker” this person has met the definition of a supervisor within the meaning of the OHSA and assumes the legal responsibilities of a supervisor under the Act.
A competent person is defined in the OHSA as someone who is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance, is familiar with this Act and the regulations that apply to the work, and has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace.
The OHSA requires that employers appoint a competent person as a supervisor [clause 25(2)(c)].
A constructor is defined in the OHSA as a person who undertakes a project for an owner and includes an owner who undertakes all or part of a project by himself or by more than one employer. The constructor is generally the person who has overall control of a project.
See also the publication entitled: Constructor Guideline: Health and Safety which is also available on the MOL website.
Under the Act, the constructor’s duties include the following:
Where required in regulation, a constructor must give written notice to a Director at the Ministry of Labour, containing prescribed information, before work begins on a project [subsection 23(2)]. The Regulation for Construction Projects (O. Reg. 213/91) made under the Act specifies the projects in respect of which notice shall be provided and the content of the notice.
An owner is defined in the OHSA as including a person, tenant, lessee, trustee, receiver, mortgagee in possession or occupier of the lands or premises. It also includes any person who acts as an agent for the owner. Please note that the term “owner” encompasses individuals other than just the person with legal ownership of the premises or land that is being used as a workplace.
An owner may also be an employer under the Act.
An owner of a workplace that is not a construction project (examples: factory, warehouse, car dealership, office) also has duties under the OHSA. For example, an owner must ensure that:
Where prescribed, an owner or employer is required to file with the Ministry of Labour, before any work is done, complete plans (i.e. drawings, layout, specifications and any alterations thereto) for the construction of or change to a workplace [clause 29(3)(a)]. This information will be reviewed by a ministry engineer to determine compliance with the OHSA and regulations. The ministry engineer may also require additional information on the plans from the employer or owner [subsection 29(4)].
If a regulation requires submission of the plans to the Ministry for review by a ministry engineer, a copy must be kept at the workplace and produced for inspection and examination by a ministry inspector upon request [clause 29(3)(b)].
Other requirements apply to owners of mines. For example, the owner of a mine must update drawings and plans every six months and include the prescribed details that are set out under section 22 of Mines and Mining Plants Regulation 854 [subsection 29(2)].
Several duties regarding designated substances apply to all owners of construction projects and constructors.
Before beginning a project, the owner shall determine whether any designated substances are present on the site and shall prepare a list of these substances.
If work on a project is tendered, the person issuing the tenders (e.g. the owner, constructor) shall include the list of designated substances in the tendering information.
Before the owner can enter into a binding contract with a constructor to work on a site where there are designated substances, the owner must ensure that the constructor has a copy of the list of designated substances [subsection 30(3)]. The constructor must in turn ensure that any prospective contractor or subcontractor has a copy of the list before any binding contract for work on the project can be made [subsection 30(4)].
An owner, who fails to comply with the applicable aforementioned duties, is liable to a constructor and every contractor and subcontractor who suffers any loss or damages as a result of the presence of designated substances that were not on the list and that the owner ought reasonably to have known of. The constructor, who fails to comply with the applicable aforementioned duties, is similarly liable for any loss or damages suffered by a contractor or general contractor [subsection 30(5)].
Every person who supplies workplace equipment of any kind under a rental, leasing or similar arrangement must ensure that the equipment complies with the Act and regulations, is in good condition, and (in specified circumstances) is maintained in good condition [subsection 31(1)].
A licensed area is land on which the licensee is authorized to harvest or use forest resources [subsection 24(2)]. A licensee must ensure that, in the licensed area:
Every officer and director of a corporation must take all reasonable care to ensure that the corporation complies with the Act and regulations as well as with any orders and requirements of Ministry of Labour inspectors, Directors and the Minister [section 32].
Architects and engineers are in contravention of the Act if they negligently or incompetently give advice or a certification required under the Act and, as a result, a worker is endangered [subsection 31(2)].
Workers play a key role in health and safety at the workplace. Workers have various duties under the Act. Under the Act, a worker must:
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