December 10, 2010
The Honourable Peter Fonseca
Minister of Labour
400 University Avenue
Dear Minister Fonseca:
Earlier this year you asked the Expert Advisory Panel to conduct a comprehensive review of Ontario’s occupational health and safety system. I am pleased to submit our report and recommendations.
If this report is fully implemented, every Ontario worker and supervisor will receive mandatory information about workplace rights and responsibilities before they start their job; every construction worker will receive entry-level training on construction site safety; there will be rigorous training standards for workers who work at heights and on other high risk activities there will be tougher penalties for those who place workers at risk of death or serious injury; employers will receive better support in understanding and meeting health and safety standards and greater recognition where these are exceeded; the needs and realities of operating small businesses will be accommodated in labour policies; there will be a renewed prevention organization with focused leadership heading a more integrated, efficient and accountable system; and there will be more information and better protection available for vulnerable workers. More open and transparent consultation with the workplace parties coupled with these and other recommendations in this report will assist you in promoting safer and healthier workplaces.
This was an important task completed in a tight time frame. Three things have made this possible:
First, the nine experts you appointed to work alongside me were inspired choices. They are highly experienced and skilled leaders and have worked together in a spirit of collaboration, mutual respect and problem-solving. The full consensus reached on our recommendations is a testament to their hard work. If the quality and spirit of the Panel’s conversations are sustained in the implementation of this report and in the work of the proposed Prevention Council, you will have set in place an important cultural shift that could not be achieved through any amount of regulation.
Second, we have benefited from a positive external environment in which unions, employers and health and safety leaders have stepped forward and given their best advice in the interests of making workplaces safer. We have engaged in a several-month long iterative and transparent discussion in which we have learned a great deal and shared our thinking as the review unfolded. This process was free of the public positioning, politics and lobbying that sometimes impedes progress in developing labour policy. The result is a better product that will favour workplace safety, workers and their families.
The Panel did its best to give justice to all the voices, ideas and convictions that it heard over the past months. The Panel’s members want to take this opportunity to thank the workers, employers, unions, professional organizations, special interest groups and the many individuals who met with us, wrote submissions or responded to the consultation paper questions. They told us candidly about their experiences with and their expectations for Ontario’s health and safety system. Their voices and ideas directly affected our deliberations and the new prevention framework that we are proposing. Ontario’s health and safety system has a future of tremendous potential thanks to the highly committed and passionate people that we met with in the course of this review.
Third, in the course of our work, Panel members received reports prepared by special working groups formed to look at the major topics covered by this report. The working groups, comprised of managers and staff from each of the health and safety delivery organizations, researched their subject matter, met with various stakeholders, received input from experts in the occupational health and safety field, and met with groups and organizations who asked to be heard. The working groups’ translation of what they heard, together with their research and analysis, are reflected in the pages of this report.
I want to extend our sincere appreciation to the managers and staff of the Ministry of Labour, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, Health and Safety Associations, Institute for Work and Health and others who worked with us to bring this report to fruition in a short time frame. In particular, I’d like to thank the small, high-powered and exceptional secretariat led by John Vander Doelen, which supported me and the Panel throughout this process. The hard work of all of these committed professional public servants has been invaluable to the Panel.
On behalf of my colleagues on the Expert Advisory Panel, I thank you for the opportunity to be involved in this important undertaking.