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Implementing Ontario’s Prevention Mandate

  • Issued: March 18, 2013
  • Content last reviewed: March 2013
  • See also: Bulletin

In December 2009, four construction workers died and another was seriously injured in a workplace incident in Toronto. Following this tragedy, the Minister of Labour appointed an Expert Advisory Panel to review Ontario’s occupational health and safety system.

In December 2010, the panel released its final report, issuing 46 recommendations. The Minister of Labour accepted all of the recommendations.

On June 1, 2011, Bill 160, the Occupational Health and Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2011, received Royal Assent, establishing the legislative framework enabling the Ministry of Labour to implement many of the report’s key recommendations.

Expert Advisory Panel

In January 2010, Tony Dean was appointed as chair of the expert advisory panel to lead a review of Ontario’s occupational health and safety enforcement and prevention system. The panel included three members each from labour, employers and academia.

The panel’s consensus report – released in December 2010 – highlighted the need for:

  • a new Occupational Health and Safety system strategy to create more effective prevention programs that are aligned with enforcement efforts.
  • enhanced training, including mandatory basic awareness training requirements for workers and frontline supervisors, better training for high-hazard work, as well as training for health and safety representatives
  • greater access to health and safety resources and support
  • improved protections for workers against reprisals for raising health and safety concerns

Occupational Health and Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2011

The panel recommendations led to the most significant changes to Ontario’s workplace health and safety prevention system in 30 years. A series of new amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 allows government to:

  • appoint a new Chief Prevention Officer (CPO) to coordinate and align the prevention system
  • establish the Ministry of Labour as the lead for injury and illness prevention, transferring that responsibility from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
  • create a new prevention council, with representatives from labour, employers, and safety experts, to advise the CPO and the Minister of Labour
  • give the minister oversight of the province’s Health and Safety Associations, as well as the education, training and promotion of workplace safety

Chief Prevention Officer

The CPO has a legal mandate and broad responsibilities for occupational health and safety in the province. One of the key responsibilities is establishing a provincial occupational health and safety strategy. The CPO is also required to provide an annual report on the performance of Ontario’s occupational health and safety system to the Minister of Labour. The CPO is responsible for overseeing that prevention activities are aligned across all workplace health and safety system partners.

The CPO provides advice on the prevention of occupational injuries and illnesses, and on any proposed changes for the funding and delivery of prevention services. The CPO has the authority to set standards to enhance health and safety training. He is also responsible for working with Ontario’s Health and Safety Associations to establish effective delivery of prevention programs and services, and to monitor their compliance with standards set by the minister.

In the summer of 2011, Ontario appointed George Gritziotis as the province’s first Chief Prevention Officer.

Prevention Council

The council was chosen for their experience and knowledge of health and safety issues. The council includes representatives from labour, employers, and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and an occupational health and safety expert.

The mandate of the council members is to advise the minister and the CPO on matters related to the prevention of work-related injuries and illnesses, including the development of a province-wide occupational health and safety strategy.

Colin Grieve has been named Chair of the Prevention Council.

Prevention Activities: An Update

To date the ministry has successfully implemented many of the Expert Advisory Panel’s report and recommendations. Seven of the 11 priority recommendations have been implemented or well on their way to being completed. Other achievements follow:

  • April 1, 2012 – a new process was put in place to expedite the resolution of reprisal complaints under the OHSA.
  • Summer 2012 – the Worker Health and Safety Awareness in 4 Steps workbook and employer guide were piloted in workplaces across the province and are now available through ServiceOntario.
  • October 1, 2012 – the health and safety awareness poster was made mandatory in all workplaces across Ontario.
  • December 2012 – the Supervisory Health and Safety Awareness in 5 Steps workbook and associated employer guide were successfully piloted.
  • December 6, 2012 – the launch of a public consultation to introduce new regulatory requirements that would require employers to ensure that all workers and supervisors complete mandatory occupational health and safety.
  • December 19, 2012 – the creation of two consultation task groups for vulnerable workers, and small business was announced. The task groups will provide occupational health and safety advice to address the needs of vulnerable workers and the supports needed by small businesses.

Geoff Turner, Minister's Office, 416-325-6953

Matt Blajer, Communications Branch, 416-326-7405
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