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Supervisor Awareness and Accountability

  • Issued: August 2012
  • Content last reviewed: June 2017
  • See also: Construction

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.

Supervisors are an employer's representative on a construction project. Their responsibilities include monitoring a project's progress and ensuring workers' health and safety. Supervisors are there to plan the work, oversee its implementation, monitor, assign tasks, identify hazards and address health and safety concerns brought forward by workers to ensure workers’ protection. Supervisors are the main vehicle of communication for their employer and for the other employers on a project.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), a supervisor is defined as a person who either has charge of a workplace or authority over a worker.

The role of a supervisor is defined by responsibility and job function not by title. Any one of the following may be considered supervisors: foreman, lead hand, site superintendent, charge hand, journeyman, trainer, an individual temporarily assigned as an “assistant” who is a competent person.

Some general duties of workplace parties

Constructors, employers and supervisors must comply with the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), and its regulations.

Constructors

Constructors' responsibilities include:

  • ensuring the required measures and procedures are carried out on a project [OHSA Section 23(1)(a)]
  • ensuring every employer and every worker performing work on a project complies with the OHSA and its regulations [OHSA Section 23(1)(b)]
  • ensuring the health and safety of workers on the project is protected [OHSA Section 23(1)(c)]
  • giving a Ministry of Labour (MOL) director notice, in writing, of a project that contains information required by the Regulation for Construction Projects, before commencing work on a project, [OHSA Section 23(2)]
  • ensuring each prospective contractor and subcontractor has received a copy of any designated substances list before entering into a binding contract for supply of work on a project [OHSA Section 30(4)]
  • appointing a supervisor for every project at which five or more workers will work at the same time [Construction Reg. Section 14(1)].

Employers

Employers' responsibilities include:

  • instructing, informing and supervising workers to protect their health and safety [OHSA Section 25(2)(a)]
  • appointing competent[1] persons as supervisors [OHSA Section 25(2)(c)]
  • taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for a worker's protection [OHSA Section 25(2)(h)]
  • preparing and reviewing, at least annually, a written occupational health and safety policy, and developing and maintaining a program to implement that policy if the workplace has six or more regularly employed workers [OHSA Section 25(2)(j)]
  • posting a copy of the occupational health and safety policy in the workplace in a spot where workers will most likely see it [OHSA Section 25(2)(k)]
  • taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for a worker's protection [OHSA Section 25(2)(h)]
  • appointing a supervisor if the employer has five or more workers on a project [Construction Reg. Section 15(1)].

Supervisors

Supervisors' responsibilities include:

  • ensuring workers work in compliance with required protective devices, measures and procedures [OHSA Section 27(1)(a)]
  • ensuring workers use or wear any equipment, protective device or clothing required by the employer [OHSA Section 27(1)(b)]
  • advising workers of any potential or actual health or safety danger known by the supervisor [OHSA Section 27(2)(a)]
  • providing workers, when required, with written instructions on any measures and procedures to be taken for the workers' protection [OHSA Section 27(2)(b)]
  • taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for a worker's protection [OHSA Section (2)(c)]
  • supervising the work on the project at all times, either personally or by having an assistant who is a competent person do so when the supervisor is unavailable [Construction Reg. Sections 14(2) and 15(2)]
  • inspecting or having the supervisor's assistant inspect, at least once a week, all machinery and equipment, including fire extinguishing equipment, magazines (storage for flammables and explosives), electrical installations, communications systems, sanitation and medical facilities, buildings and other structures, temporary supports and means of access and egress at the project to ensure worker safety.

Workers

Workers’ duties include:

  • wearing appropriate personal protective equipment [OHSA Section 28(1)(b)]
  • using/operating equipment in a safe manner [OHSA Section 28(2)(b)]
  • reporting any defects in equipment to his/her supervisor or employer [OHSA Section 28(1)(c)]
  • working in compliance with OHSA and its regulations [OHSA Section 28(1)(a)]
  • reporting any known workplace hazards or OHSA violations to his/her supervisor or employer [OHSA Section 28(1)d)]
  • knowing his/her OHSA rights, including the right to refuse unsafe work [OHSA Section 43(3)(a) to (c)].

Protecting workers

It is the responsibility of employers, owners, constructors and supervisors to ensure all workplace parties comply with the OHSA and its regulations.

The employer is required to ensure basic mandatory health and safety awareness training is completed by all supervisors and workers.

For more information on legal responsibilities please see the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Further information on supervisor duties

Ministry of Labour Health & Safety Contact Centre

Call toll-free 1-877-202-0008 anytime to report workplace health and safety incidents. Call 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, for general inquiries about workplace health and safety. (Information in many languages on request.).

Always call 911 in an emergency.

[1] Competent means a person is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance, familiar with the OHSA and its regulations that apply to the work, and has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety of the workplace.

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.