• Issued: March 2017
  • Content last reviewed: March 2017

Ontario’s occupational health and safety system has made notable progress over the past year. These advances were possible because the system had a common agenda – the province’s integrated strategy, Healthy and Safe Workplaces Ontario – that focused the system’s attention on eliminating the greatest risks to worker health and safety. The system’s progress is also due to the willingness of stakeholders to work collaboratively and build partnerships both within and outside the system.

The integrated strategy will continue to be the roadmap for the system. Our system partners will continue to focus on improving how they plan and deliver initiatives and collaborate with each other and with new partners. Effective planning will still require a shared goal and continued emphasis on finding new ways to expand our capacity to reach those who are most in need, and at the same maintaining existing service delivery levels, through new and innovative delivery models and with new partners. This will require a commitment for the system partners to share knowledge and expertise, as well as access to data and information to achieve the results we desire.

Looking ahead, Ontario’s economy and workplaces are changing. These changes aren’t just affecting occupational health and safety; they are also – as the Changing Workplaces Review currently underway indicates – influencing employment standards and labour relations. The factors driving these changes include globalization, trade liberalization, technological change, the growth of the service sector and changes in the nature of standard employment relationships. Change presents new challenges but also transformational opportunities for improving and expanding the delivery of occupational health and safety. We will have to reassess the priorities in the integrated strategy and, if necessary, update them to ensure they keep pace with changing work environments.

While the system must sustain its focus on the highest risks in occupational health and safety – including addressing hazardous occupational exposures, a persistent and leading cause of fatalities for Ontario workers – and on the sectors with higher fatality rates, we will also need to identify and implement programs, resources and services to address issues of growing importance such as violence and harassment in the workplace. From our current efforts in addressing violence in health care, the system will learn important lessons that can be applied in other sectors, such as education and the broader public sector. Mental health also continues to an important occupational health and safety issue, and the system will require more capacity – resources, knowledge and expertise – to support workplaces.

Workplace injuries are tragic and always preventable. They must never be seen as just the “cost of doing business”. Everyone has a responsibility to create the type of health and safety culture that ensures workers return home safe at the end of every work day. Making that kind of significant and lasting change in our workplaces requires the co-operation of researchers, governments and non-profits, employers, workers and broader society.

Previous | Next