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Frequently Asked Questions

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: June 2008
  • Revised: October 2009
  • Content last reviewed: October 2008

How are workplaces identified for inspection by the Ministry of Labour?

Things considered when identifying a workplace for a proactive inspection include:

  • the number and severity of past lost–time and non–lost–time workplace injuries, including the associated costs,
  • compliance history,
  • hazards inherent to the work,
  • new businesses,
  • size of businesses,
  • specific events or incidents (e.g., critical injuries or fatal injuries, or injuries due to violence), and
  • the presence of young, new or otherwise vulnerable workers.

Companies with high rates of lost–time and non–lost–time injuries and⁄or injuries with high costs will be identified through Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) injury data. Companies that have a history of non–compliance and⁄or have workplaces with inherent hazards will be identified by means of ministry experience or enforcement data.

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How does the MOL evaluate companies’ injury–prevention performance?

The ministry analyzes data on workplace injuries as reported each year by employers to the WSIB. The analysis identifies companies with the highest injury rates and injury costs relative to other companies within their WSIB rate group. Companies can obtain a profile of their data from WSIB.

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How often will a firm be inspected?

This will depend on many factors, including:

  • the nature and extent of past non–compliance, and what the firm needs to fix to achieve compliance,
  • the presence of an Internal Responsibility System (IRS) everyone in the workplace understands and supports, with a Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) structure (where required) that is working well and suitable training and certification of members, and
  • a firm’s commitment to a strong culture of health and safety, including an appropriate level of health and safety awareness throughout the organization and an environment which fosters a commitment by workers, supervisors and the employer to prevent occupational injuries and illnesses.

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What does an inspector look for?

Among the many factors that inspectors examine are:

  • compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations
  • health and safety programs and policies
  • Internal Responsibility System — self reliance
  • training requirements⁄deficiencies
  • record of injuries, including musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
  • occurrence and record of workplace violence
  • attention to young worker health and safety
  • workplace–specific sector hazards.

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Who are the partners in Ontario’s prevention system?

The Ministry of Labour’s prevention partners are the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board WSIB and Ontario’s (HSAs). The mandate of the Ministry of Labour is the administration and enforcement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  The WSIB’s mandate is workplace injury and illness prevention.  The HSAs mandate is to provide workplace safety training, education and consultation.

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How does Safe At Work Ontario differ from the WSIB Workwell Program?

The focus of the WSIB’s Workwell Health and Safety Program is prevention and education. Workwell provides audits and offers educational support to firms to improve their occupational health and safety practices.

Safe At Work Ontario aims to improve workplace health and safety practices through Ministry of Labour enforcement of provincial legislation.

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Why is Safe At Work Ontario so important?

Safe At Work Ontario is important because:

  • more than 250,000 people are injured in Ontario workplaces each year,
  • the direct cost (WSIB premiums) of a new lost time injury (LTI) (in 2007) was, on average, $21,300, and
  • the indirect cost of each LTI (in 2007), including re–hiring, re–training, lost productivity, etc., was $85,200.

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What was the previous targeted enforcement strategy?

The 2004-2008 High Risk Strategy focused on workplaces with the highest injury rates and costs. More than 30,000 workplaces, representing ten per cent of the companies insured by the WSIB, are responsible for some 40 per cent of all injuries and costs incurred. These workplaces were determined based upon the cost of their lost-time injuries since January 1, 2000.

The goal of this initiative was to reduce lost-time injuries by assisting and educating these workplaces with high injury rates on healthier and safer work practices, while continuing to give priority to investigating workplace fatalities, critical injuries, work refusals, work stoppages and immediate hazards to worker health and safety.

The bottom two per cent—six thousand high-risk workplaces--were targeted by Ministry of Labour inspectors. The ministry hired an additional two hundred inspectors, who were deployed across the province.

Inspectors visited these sites four times a year, focusing on workplace hazards to help firms reduce on-the-job injuries. Although these workplaces represented just two per cent of all firms insured by the WSIB, they accounted for 10 per cent of all lost-time injuries and twenty one per cent of injury costs in Ontario.

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How is Safe At Work Ontario an improvement on the previous enforcement strategy?

  • A better, more integrated approach for compliance assurance that improves connections with our system partners — Ministry of Labour inspectors can refer workplaces to HSAs for additional assistance and training.
  • Improved program flexibility⁄effectiveness in determining the most appropriate workplaces for intervention — the ministry is not limiting its inspections to workplaces with injuries. It is also focusing on workplaces with higher risks of injuries using indicators such as inherent hazards and poor compliance records. By expanding its criteria for identifying these workplaces, the ministry will improve its ability to use a broader range of information in planning inspections and will be able to inspect more workplaces before an injury occurs.
  • Fostering a culture of safety in Ontario workplaces — the ministry continues to foster a safety culture by ensuring compliance with the OHSA and by considering prosecution whenever this is warranted. By continuing to deter non–compliance, the ministry encourages safer workplaces, an important first step in developing a true culture of workplace health and safety. This strategy will foster development of a sustainable reduction in the rate of injuries and improvement in workplace health and safety conditions and culture.