The main purpose of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) 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:
Workers' rights under OHSA include:
The Act prohibits reprisals being taken against workers who exercise these rights.
Workers have a general duty to take responsibility for personal health and safety, which means they should not behave or operate equipment in a way that would endanger themselves or others. Section 28 of OHSA lists additional specific duties:
The main way that workers can participate in workplace health and safety is through exercising their rights and duties in a responsible manner and by supporting their Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC). The JHSC is made up of worker and management representatives and has the power to:
Health and safety concerns should first be brought to the attention of the employer or supervisor. If nothing is done, it can be taken to the worker's health and safety representative or Joint Health and Safety Committee. If the situation is not corrected, it can be reported to the nearest office of the Ministry of Labour. Workers also have the right to refuse unsafe work. OHSA Section 43 outlines the procedure that must be followed, and this process should be understood before a refusal is initiated. More information can be obtained from local ministry offices.
Obviously, an injured worker's first priority should be to get proper medical attention. Ensuring that necessary medical treatment is provided is the responsibility of the employer. It may take the form of first aid from a trained co-worker or require transportation to and treatment at a hospital.
The injury-causing incident must also be reported to the worker's supervisor or employer, so that the employer's responsibilities under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 can be met. One of these responsibilities is completion of a Workplace Safety and Insurance Board form (WSIB Form 7). More information on workplace safety insurance (formerly known as workers' compensation) is available from the WSIB, the Office of the Worker Adviser, and the Office of the Employer Adviser.
OHSA Sections 25 assigns a mixture of general and specific duties to employers and provides for other duties to be prescribed (required) by regulation. Some of the general duties require an employer to:
Some of the specific duties require an employer to:
OHSA Section 26 details a number of other areas where additional duties for an employer may be prescribed. Regulations give more specific directions on how to comply with the general requirements of OHSA.
Employers also have duties with respect to workplace violence and workplace harassment.
OHSA also specifies duties for: