Safe At Work Ontario is the ministry’s enforcement strategy that involves stakeholder engagement, annual sector-specific enforcement plans, awareness initiatives, as well as proactive compliance and enforcement activities.

Stakeholder engagement

Ongoing stakeholder engagement is key to the Safe At Work Ontario strategy. It helps the Ministry of Labour understand what is happening in workplaces, so it can respond quickly to workforce changes. The ministry uses the information gathered during stakeholder consultations as part of the annual planning process for Safe At Work Ontario.

In January 2018, the ministry sought input from nearly 120 representatives and specialists from industries and sectors across Ontario.

In general, stakeholders were very supportive of the ministry’s compliance support strategy, and its efforts to improve occupational health and safety in Ontario. Stakeholders appreciated the opportunity to interact with the ministry and system partners. They encouraged the ministry to reach out to more stakeholders with health and safety resources and guidance on best practices. Stakeholders offered suggestions for the ministry to consider, which included:

  1. Information sharing: It is helpful when ministry inspectors raise awareness and inform stakeholders about health and safety during inspections.
  2. Broader outreach: Smaller employers benefit from having resources to help them comply with health and safety regulations.
  3. Media and new technology: Communication with stakeholders is improved when the ministry partners with health and safety associations and uses a variety of communications tools (for example, newsletters, websites, blogs, advertisements). The ministry should continue to use new technologies and social media to communicate with stakeholders.
  4. Guidance on non-legislated standards: The ministry should continue to provide guidance to support compliance. It is helpful when the ministry informs stakeholders about industry best practices, guidelines and examples of high performing employers.
  5. Approach to enforcement: The ministry should focus on supporting compliance through awareness rather than strictly using an enforcement approach. For example, inspectors should provide information and resources to help employers work within the health and safety system. Compliance is increased when employers understand the reasons for health and safety regulations and how to meet the regulations.

During the consultations, stakeholders expressed the need for prevention and enforcement efforts on:

  • workplace violence
  • mental health, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), other psychosocial concerns
  • technological distractions (i.e. cellphones and other personal electronic devices)
  • nanotechnology, lasers, other technological advancements
  • cannabis, fentanyl, other drug and alcohol use

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

Annual sector-specific enforcement plans

As part of Safe At Work Ontario, the Ministry of Labour develops annual sector-specific enforcement plans to focus inspectors’ work and guide their proactive visits. Plans are developed for four sector-specific programs and one unit:

  • industrial sector program
  • construction sector program
  • mining sector program
  • health care sector program
  • specialized professional services

The plans also include details about all the ministry’s planned health and safety initiatives.

Proactive compliance support campaigns and enforcement activities

Each year, Safe At Work Ontario conducts proactive health and safety compliance support campaigns and enforcement activities that target certain hazards in workplaces in each sector. To identify the hazards and the workplaces to target, the ministry uses a risk-based process based on: advice from stakeholders, injury and fatality rates and incidents, the nature of the work (i.e. inherent hazards), worker vulnerability and the sector’s compliance history.

The sector-specific plans identify priorities for proactive visits. They also identify the focus of health and safety initiatives that occur throughout the year or over a short set period of time, usually between one to four months. Safe At Work Ontario publishes the dates of all health and safety initiatives in advance, so employers can assess their own compliance and prepare before the inspectors come.

Inspectors involved in proactive compliance support campaigns and enforcement activities visit workplaces, provide education, conduct inspections and issue orders. The goals are to:

  • raise awareness of hazards
  • increase workplace compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations
  • prevent worker injuries and illness

In 2017-18, Safe At Work Ontario conducted health and safety initiatives to support our compliance support strategy. These initiatives are described in more detail in the following sections.

See the schedule for ministry health and safety initiatives planned for 2018-2019 and the sector-specific plans for more details.