Despite the abundance of health and safety and prevention information, stakeholders often found it very difficult to locate. Furthermore, there is overlap and duplication, it is not consistent and it is not organized, it is frequently out of date and not presented in an intuitive manner. Stakeholders repeatedly identified the need for high quality, consistent and accessible information resources and services.

The MOL, the WSIB and the HSAs all produce various pamphlets, guides, fact sheets and other resource materials. While there has been close collaboration on some of these products, they tend to be developed independently with little review or input from the partner organizations. The Panel heard much about the duplication and inconsistency of resource material content and the inconsistency in cost and access across these organizations. In recent years, access to resource materials has been expanded through the Internet. Work is currently underway to develop a single portal to access this information or to link various organizations’ websites, but access is still cumbersome and incomplete.

The new prevention organization should work with other external organizations like the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) which produces and disseminates a wide range of credible and relevant tools and resources to improve workplace health and safety programs. CCOHS is a federal organization governed by a tripartite council with representatives from government, employers and labour.

There is also a significant number of local, national and international websites that include information supporting prevention, innovation and technology vis-à-vis health and safety in the workplace. Efforts should be made to build upon existing sources within Ontario, Canada and internationally.

Stakeholders also told the Panel that information about health and safety innovations in workplaces are not being systematically captured and shared. Stakeholders encouraged the health and safety prevention system to find ways to support the sharing of innovative practices and emerging technology in a way that advances healthier and safer work environments.OHS system staff are exposed to new and innovative health and safety practices on a daily basis. They know what works and what doesn’t, and have creative ideas on improving situations and solving problems. It is important that there be ways to gather and share this knowledge.

Each of the partner organizations operate contact centres that provide basic health and safety information related to the Occupational Health and Safety Act as well as some technical assistance. The majority of this contact currently takes the form of phone calls to the various organizations. The MOL operates a call centre that has staff trained in the OHSA, regulations and MOL policies and procedures and answer routine questions about rights and responsibilities in the workplace. The WSIB's Prevention Contact Centre is the main point of contact for employers and/or their representatives requiring assistance relating to health and safety and prevention incentive programs, such as: Safe Communities Incentive Program (SCIP); Safety Groups; experience rating programs (NEERMAPCAD-7); certification compliance, young worker programs and social core campaigns, SafeJob Hotline – 1-866-723-3562, as well as cost and firm allocation enquiries. Each of the HSAs also have resources dedicated to responding to telephone inquires from employers, workers, the general public and prevention system staff about training programs (certification and first aid), prevention system incentive programs and general health and safety issues.

Recommendation 8

Consolidating responsibility will create a unified system-wide vision and approach to knowledge management. This will lead to a more efficient use of resources, and the end result will be improved support and service to the workplace parties: faster access to knowledge; faster problem solving; more efficient question/problem handling; consistency, uniformity and elimination of duplication.

Creating a single knowledge base of innovative health and safety practices will allow for consistently high-quality information. Furthermore, it will be easier to determine what is included and will be more readily accessible to staff in the OHS system and to external stakeholders.

The collection of information should be:

  • a collaborative effort;
  • reviewed for relevance and where necessary validated;
  • organized in a central repository;
  • made available to the workplace parties in a way that is easily accessible; and
  • perceived by users as neutral, secure and authoritative.

Recommendation 9

Such a review and rationalization of products will increase the quality and availability of information and products while eliminating duplication, thereby freeing up resources to develop new products. The Panel heard consistently that workers and employers, particularly small business, need high-quality resource information that was easy to understand and helped them achieve compliance. Such materials must be available in languages other than English and French and must consider literacy issues.

The prevention system would benefit from establishing partnerships with organizations such as CCOHS to provide greater availability of high quality resources and contribute to further maximizing resource sharing.

Recommendation 10

The Panel heard quite consistently that many workers had little to no understanding of the  Occupational Health and Safety Act or their rights as workers or the obligations of employers. This was particularly the case with vulnerable workers. A health and safety poster should be available in multiple languages so that the poster displayed in the workplace is in the majority language of the workplace. If a poster is not available in the majority language of the workplace, an English poster must be posted.