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A guide to Occupational Health and Safety Act requirements for basic awareness training

Learn about the requirements for providing this training to workers and supervisors under Regulation 297/13 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

About this guide

This guide explains the requirements for mandatory basic occupational health and safety awareness training for all workers and supervisors in Ontario. It describes the workplace parties’ rights and responsibilities. It answers, in plain language, the questions most commonly asked about these requirements.

The requirements are enforceable as of July 1, 2014. They are covered in the Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training Regulation (O. Reg. 297/13) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

For more information, please:

  • visit the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development website
  • call the Ministry’s toll-free health and safety information line at 1-877-202-0008 between 8:30 a.m and 5 p.m Monday-Friday for general inquiries about workplace health and safety
  • see A Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act
  • download and print Ontario law on e-Laws
  • seek legal advice

This resource does not replace the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations and should not be used as or considered legal advice. Health and safety inspectors apply and enforce these laws based on the facts they find in the workplace.

Background

In 2010, the Minister of Labour appointed an Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety, chaired by Tony Dean, to conduct a review of Ontario’s occupational health and safety system. The Panel was asked to recommend structural, operational and policy improvements. Panel members included health and safety experts representing labour, employers and academics.

The establishment of mandatory requirements for basic occupational health and safety training programs for workers and supervisors fulfils two key recommendations of the Panel.

The regulatory requirements apply to all workplaces covered under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), regardless of sector. All employers must ensure workers and supervisors complete, or have completed, an awareness training program that meets the regulatory requirements. This is mandatory whether they work on a construction project, in a retail store or factory, hospital or long-term care facility, mine or mining plant, or farming operation, etc.

These awareness training programs will increase workers’ and supervisors’ knowledge of basic rights and responsibilities under the OHSA and heighten awareness of basic workplace health and safety issues. They will support the Internal Responsibility System, which is based on the principle that workplace parties themselves are in the best position to identify health and safety problems and develop solutions. Employers, supervisors and workers share in the responsibility for occupational health and safety – and their roles and responsibilities are an important component of these awareness training programs.

Basic awareness training also supports the health and safety of vulnerable workers – those who are considered to have “greater exposure than most workers to conditions hazardous to health or safety and who lack the power to alter those conditions”. This can include:

  • young workers
  • recent immigrants
  • older workers
  • workers new to their jobs or in new firms

However, the awareness training does not, in any way, replace other specific workplace health and safety training required under the OHSA and its regulations.

Key terms and concepts

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) defines a worker as a person who performs work or supplies services for monetary compensation. It does not include an inmate that participates in a work project or rehabilitation program in a correctional institution or similar institution or facility [OHSA Section 1].

“Supervisor” is defined in the OHSA to mean a person who has charge of a workplace or authority over a worker [OHSA Section 1].

Employers are required to appoint a competent person as a supervisor. Under the OHSA, a “competent person” is defined as a person who:

  • is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance
  • is familiar with the OHSA and the regulations that apply to the work and
  • has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health and safety in the workplace.

The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development is developing resources to help workplaces determine who is a supervisor under the OHSA. These resources will soon be made available on the ministry’s website.

Do these requirements apply to self-employed persons?

No. OHSA Section 4 states that only certain requirements and regulations apply to self-employed persons. The requirements for self-employed persons do not include the general duty to carry out prescribed training programs for workers, supervisors and committee members [OHSA Section 26(1)]. Self-employed persons are also not required to comply with the specific requirements in O. Reg. 297/13.

Do these requirements apply to constructors?

Employers are responsible for ensuring an awareness training program is completed by every worker and supervisor. On a construction project, if a constructor meets the OHSA definition of an employer, then he/she would be responsible for ensuring workers and supervisors complete an awareness training program.

Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, Training and Skills Development training programs

The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) has developed basic occupational health and safety awareness training programs for workers and supervisors. The MLTSD programs are available for free either as printable workbooks or online e-learning modules. The MLTSD programs can be used to comply with the awareness training requirements. The MLTSD workbooks are available in multiple languages through ServiceOntario or the ministry website.

Do workplaces have to use the ministry programs to comply with the regulation?

No. Even though the ministry programs can be used by workplace parties to comply with the regulatory requirements, it is not mandatory to use them to comply with the regulation. Workplaces can develop their own training programs or use externally provided training, if the training meets the minimum content requirements set out in Ontario Regulation 297/13.

Updated: March 29, 2022
Published: March 29, 2022