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The Safe At Work Ontario Strategy

Safe At Work Ontario

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.


Safe At Work Ontario is the Ministry of Labour’s (ministry) initiative to raise awareness about, and increase compliance with, Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.

Every year the ministry holds consultations to shape and improve its occupational health and safety compliance strategy and build closer partnerships with its stakeholders. These sessions:

  • help the ministry to improve its approach to better meet the public’s needs;
  • provide an opportunity to learn from the ministry’s partners;
  • obtain feedback on how the program is working;
  • increase support for new directions; and
  • identify areas for improvement.

As part of Safe At Work Ontario, the ministry develops annual sector-specific enforcement plans that focus on hazards and outline what inspectors will focus on during inspections. Each sector plan outlines the ministry’s occupational health and safety enforcement initiatives to protect Ontario’s workers from occupational injury and illness.

The sector trends analysis outlines the ministry’s activities for each sector.

This report summarizes the proactive activities carried out by ministry health and safety inspectors in 2014 – 2015.


Ontario provides a toll free province-wide number to report unsafe work practices and workplace health and safety incidents. Call the ministry’s Health & Safety Contact Centre toll free at 1-877-202-0008 to report critical injuries, fatalities or work refusals.

Call 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday – Friday for general inquiries about workplace health and safety.

In an emergency, always call 911 immediately.

Enforcement statistics

Ministry inspectors enforce the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations at workplaces across the province. As part of the Safe At Work Ontario strategy, they focus on specific industry sectors where there are:

  • high injury rates,
  • history of non-compliance, or
  • certain workplace hazards.

The ministry maintains a database where inspectors record their visits to workplaces when conducting inspections, consultations and investigations, along with orders issued. Events that are reported to the ministry, including fatalities, critical injuries, complaints, work refusals, etc., are also recorded.

The ministry analyzes this data when planning for enforcement initiatives and blitzes as part of Safe At Work Ontario. A breakdown of the proactive field-visit activities conducted by ministry inspectors for 2014-2015 is presented in the tables below.

Table 1: Proactive inspector field visit activities and orders issued
Program inspector activities, 2014-2015 Number
Proactive inspections 36,426
Proactive field visit activities 37,262
Orders issued 89,478
Stop work orders issued 5,264

Notes on data in Table 1:

  • A proactive inspection is usually an unannounced visit to a workplace. A proactive inspection at one workplace can include a number of field visits.
  • Orders issued represent all orders issued during proactive inspections.
  • Data are subject to change due to updates in the enforcement database.

System priorities

On December 16, 2013, the ministry released its first Integrated Health and Safety Strategy designed to guide the efforts of the:

  • Workplace Safety and Insurance Board;
  • health and safety associations; and
  • Ministry of Labour enforcement staff.

Safe At Work Ontario was refocused to:

  • align with the priorities in the Healthy and Safe Ontario Workplaces Strategy and
  • deliver on Ontario’s Integrated Health and Safety Strategy’s overall goals, which are to target the areas of greatest need and to enhance service delivery.

The priorities set out in the Healthy and Safe Ontario Workplaces Strategy are:

  • assist the most vulnerable workers;
  • support occupational health and safety improvements in small businesses;
  • address the highest hazards that result in occupational injuries, illnesses or fatalities;
  • build collaborative partnerships;
  • integrate service delivery and system-wide planning; and
  • promote a culture of health and safety.

Safe At Work Ontario stakeholder consultations

In early 2014, the Ministry of Labour, in partnership with the health and safety associations, hosted stakeholder consultation sessions as part of the ministry’s Safe At Work Ontario strategy.

Stakeholders across Ontario were invited to meet with the ministry to discuss how the occupational health and safety system could work together to:

  • address activities that lead to a greater frequency or severity of work-related injuries, illnesses and/or fatalities;
  • provide support to small businesses; and
  • help workers who are more vulnerable than others to work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities.

Thirteen consultation sessions were organized, including sessions in Ottawa, Kingston, Cornwall, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Hamilton, London and the Greater Toronto Area.

Participants were generally satisfied with the occupational health and safety system’s efforts to reduce injuries and fatalities in Ontario’s workplaces. They also indicated that the ministry’s efforts to increase communication to them regarding high hazards have greatly improved.

Stakeholders noted that mandatory awareness training – which came into force July 1, 2014 – is a great step in the right direction. Some other suggestions included:

  • The definition of vulnerable workers should be made clear so those workers can identify themselves.
  • More explanatory information on the Internal Responsiblity System should be available for vulnerable workers.
  • Information for small business owners should be simple and clear to help make them aware of their duties and obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Ongoing stakeholder engagement is key to the Safe At Work Ontario strategy to better understand what is happening in workplaces, so that the Ministry can respond quickly to changes in the workforce.

The ministry uses the information gathered during the stakeholder consultations as part of the annual planning process for Safe At Work Ontario.

Comments and discussions are welcome at any time. For more information on the Safe At Work Ontario sessions, please email us at

Safe At Work Ontario proactive enforcement

The ministry’s occupational health and safety inspectors are responsible for enforcing the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations at workplaces across the province. Proactive enforcement activities for inspections are part of the province’s Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy. Safe At Work Ontario includes three types of proactive enforcement initiatives:

  • provincial inspection blitzes;
  • provincial enforcement initiatives; and
  • regional enforcement initiatives.

The initiatives are intended to raise awareness of workplace hazards and promote compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.

Provincial inspection blitzes

Provincial blitzes identify workplaces for inspection based on hazards inherent to the operation of the business. Blitzes are limited in duration (1 to 4 months) and raise awareness of these hazards so that the workplace parties can ensure that they are complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations.

Provincial enforcement initiatives

Provincial initiatives identify workplaces for inspection based on hazards inherent to the operation of the business. However, enforcement initiatives may also focus on a particular sector or a type of workplace, for example, new or small businesses. Provincial initiatives may run for an entire year or more to allow for extended outreach to these workplaces.

Regional enforcement initiatives

Each regional ministry office may conduct its own local initiative(s) to raise awareness of and help address health and safety issues that are specific to particular geographic areas of Ontario and/or have a higher rate of occurrence than in the rest of the province.

Ministry of Labour Operations Division is comprised of five regional boundaries:

  • Central East Region;
  • Central West Region;
  • Eastern Region;
  • Western Region; and
  • Northern Region.

Blitz and initiative topics and schedules are posted in advance as part of the sector plans. Individual workplaces are not identified in advance.

Blitz results are posted on the ministry’s website.

Information on the 2014-15 enforcement activities is within the respective health and safety program and Specialized Professional Services sections below. The health and safety programs are:

  • Industrial Health and Safety Program;
  • Construction Health and Safety Program;
  • Mining Health and Safety Program;
  • Health Care Health and Safety Program; and
  • Specialized Professional Services, which supports all program areas.

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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.