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Enforcement Results:
New Small Business Registrations and Internal Responsibility System Initiative 2015-2016

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: November 24, 2016
  • Content last reviewed: November 2016

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.

Small new businesses are responsible for complying with Ontario’s occupational health and safety legislation to prevent injuries and illness.

A key to workplace health and safety is having a strong internal responsibility system (IRS). The IRS is a system in which everyone – employers, supervisors and workers -- all have key roles in ensuring a safe and healthy workplace.

Between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016, Ministry of Labour inspectors visited new small businesses with fewer than 50 workers in the industrial sector. The focus was on businesses that had registered with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), but had no prior contact with the ministry.

The inspectors checked to ensure these workplaces:

The goal was to:

  • promote improved health and safety in new small businesses
  • encourage employers to identify and control hazards
  • address and remedy non-compliance with the OHSA and its regulations
  • support vulnerable workers by raising awareness of worker rights
  • raise awareness of the importance of the IRS and availability of resources in the health and safety system
  • enhance health and safety partnerships

Background

Small businesses present unique challenges to the effective and efficient implementation of occupational health and safety in the workplace. In Ontario, small businesses represent 95 per cent of all employers. They employ 28 per cent of Ontario’s workers, many of whom are vulnerable workers. Small businesses have been identified as a priority in Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Integrated Strategy.

Inspectors undertook this year-long initiative to promote and enforce the IRS at new workplaces with no prior contact with the Ministry of Labour. The workplace visits addressed administrative requirements of the OHSA and included a physical inspection of each entire workplace. This initiative was conducted in addition to regular workplace visits in which inspectors routinely enforce the IRS.

Report summary

From April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016, industrial health and safety inspectors conducted 3,101 proactive visits to 2,414 workplaces and issued 8,807 orders under the OHSA and its regulations. This included 89 stop work orders.

On average, ministry staff issued 3.65 orders per workplace.

The three most frequently issued orders were for employers failing to:

  • post the OHSA
  • ensure a worker who performs work for the employer completes a basic occupational health and safety awareness training program
  • ensure a supervisor who performs work for the employer completes a basic occupational health and safety awareness training program

Full report

Workplace Inspection Blitzes and Provincial Initiatives

Inspection blitzes and provincial initiatives are part of the province’s Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy. They are announced to the sector by the ministry in advance although individual workplaces to be visited by inspectors are not identified in advance. Results are posted on the ministry’s website. The blitzes and provincial initiatives raise awareness of known workplace hazards and promote compliance with the OHSA and its safety regulations.

Inspectors’ findings may impact the frequency and level of future inspections of individual workplaces. Inspectors may also refer employers to health and safety associations for compliance assistance and training.

Enforcement focus

Inspectors visited a number of workplaces in the industrial sector, including:

  • retail establishments
  • restaurants
  • food, beverage and tobacco
  • wholesalers
  • industrial services
  • wood and metal fabrication establishments
  • automotive manufacturers
  • tourism, hospitality and recreational services
  • vehicle sales and service workplaces
  • offices and related services

The inspectors checked that:

  • the core elements of the IRS were established, implemented and maintained
  • employers had identified and controlled hazards
  • non-compliance with the OHSA and its regulations was being addressed and remedied
  • vulnerable workers were aware of their OHSA rights
  • workplace parties were being directed to resources in the health and safety system

Inspection activity summary

The following table presents a summary of the overall enforcement activity results:

Table 1: Field Visit activity
Enforcement Activities Grand Totals
Number of Workplaces Visited 2,414
Field Visits 3,101
Orders Issued 8,807
Stop Use/Stop Work Orders 89
Orders Issued per Workplace 3.65
Orders Issued per Field Visit 2.84

Note: Numbers of orders issued include requirements.

Order analysis

In total, 8,807 orders were issued. Of those, almost 60 per cent (5,264 orders) were issued for violations of the OHSA and about 40 per cent (3,543 orders) were issued for violations of OHSA regulations.

See below Table 2 below for a breakdown of the number of orders issued under each regulation.

Table 2: Orders Issued under Regulations
Regulations made under the OHSA Number of Orders Issued % of Regulations Total
Reg. 851/90, Industrial Establishments 1,851 52.24%
O. Reg. 297/13, OHS Awareness and Training 1,318 37.20%
Reg. 860/90, WHMIS 335 9.46%
O. Reg. 490/09, Designated Substances 12 0.34%
O. Reg. 213/91, Construction Projects 9 0.25%
O. Reg. 278/05, Designated Substances - Asbestos 7 0.20%
O. Reg.67/93, Health Care and Residential Facilities 5 0.14%
Reg. 833/90, Control of Exposure to Bio. and Chem. Agents 3 0.08%
Reg. 854/90, Mine and Mining Plants 2 0.06%
O. Reg. 474/07, Needle Safety 1 0.03%

Of the 8,807 total orders issued, 21.02 per cent (1,851 orders) were issued for contraventions of the Regulations for Industrial Establishments (Reg. 851/90). Table 3 below is a listing of the top 10 orders issued under the industrial regulations.

Table 3: Top 10 Orders Issued under Regulations for Industrial Establishments
Section Number of Orders Issued % of Reg. 851 Total
Lifting device examination [Section 51(1)(b)] 301 16.26%
Eye wash fountain [Section 124] 187 10.10%
Secure machinery/equipment against tipping/falling [Section 46] 156 8.43%
Floors or other surfaces [Section 11] 126 6.81%
Material handling (storage/placement) [Section 45(b)] 108 5.83%
In-running nip hazard/guarding [Section 25] 106 5.73%
Secure compressed gas cylinder [Section 49(b)] 98 5.29%
Floors to be kept free of obstructions/hazards [Section 11(a)] 94 5.08%
Machine guarding [Section 24] 89 4.81%
Guardrail at open side of raised floor, etc. [Section 13(1)(b)] 55 2.97%

As part of checking for worker training and appropriate supervision in workplaces, 1,318 orders (14.96 per cent of the total orders) were issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training Regulation (O. Reg. 297/13) for contraventions involving requirements to:

  • provide basic occupational health and safety awareness training for workers [Section 1(1) to 1(3)] - 738 orders (8.38 per cent of total orders)
  • provide basic occupational health and safety awareness training for supervisors [Section 2(1) to 2(3)(1)] - 535 orders (6.08 per cent of total orders)
  • maintain occupational health and safety awareness training records for workers and supervisors [Section 4(1) to 4(5)] - 44 orders (0.5% of total orders)

In total, 4,376 orders (almost 50 per cent of the total orders issued) were directly related to the establishment, implementation and maintenance of the IRS.

Table 4: Total IRS-Related Orders
Type of order Number of orders Percentage of total orders issued
Workplace violence and harassment prevention 1,577 17.9%
Employer obligations (worker training, posting OHSA/policy, policies, programs) 1,823 20.7%
Establish / maintain / support worker health and safety representative 660 7.5%
Establish / maintain / support Joint Health and Safety Committees 316 3.6%

In addition, about 287 orders (about three per cent of total orders) were issued for employers’ failure to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for workers’ protection [OHSA Section 25(2)(h)].

Another 320 orders (almost four per cent of total orders) were issued for employers’ failure to ensure equipment, materials and protective devices they provided were maintained in good condition [OHSA Section 25(1)(b)].

Conclusion

A high number of orders reflected employers’ failure to support, develop and implement a self-reliant IRS. The orders issued showed a general lack of awareness and understanding of employers’ health and safety responsibilities under the OHSA and its regulations. This includes a requirement to provide basic occupational health and safety awareness training for workers and supervisors.

Many workplaces also did not have the required policies and programs to address prevention of workplace violence and harassment.

The findings indicate that the IRS must remain a core focus of every ministry inspection.

Inspectors will continue to inspect workplaces for compliance with the OHSA and its regulations. They will also direct small business employers to:

  • a new resource for small business – the Health and Safety Checklist – to help employers evaluate their understanding of and compliance with the OHSA requirements, and receive information about key OHSA requirements
  • other ministry resources on the Small Business webpage
  • Ontario's health and safety system partners and their resources

The ministry, its health and safety associations and the WSIB will continue to raise small businesses’ awareness of OHSA requirements by working with business organizations such as chambers of commerce and industry associations.

Next Steps

The results confirm the need to continue focused enforcement on new small businesses and to ensure an IRS is established and maintained in these workplaces.

This initiative is being repeated in the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Industrial inspectors will proactively inspect small businesses (with less than 50 workers) that are registered with the WSIB and have not been previously registered or inspected by the ministry.

This initiative will:

  • increase small businesses’ awareness of workplace parties’ roles and responsibilities under the OHSA and its regulations
  • promote awareness and compliance with mandatory occupational health and safety awareness training for workers and supervisors
  • support vulnerable workers by making them aware of their rights under the OHSA and the resources available to help them

Compliance help for employers

Please contact our safety partners for more information on:

  • identifying, preventing and controlling workplace hazards
  • IRS resources
  • assistance with developing workplace health and safety programs

Also see the Ministry of Labour Small Business webpage.

Disclaimer: This web resource has been prepared to assist the workplace parties in understanding some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the regulations. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.

It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the legislation. This web resource does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.

While this web resource will also be available to Ministry of Labour inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This web resource does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.