Every Ontarian can play a role in preventing workplace injuries, illness and fatalities. Strong internal responsibility systems (IRS) are essential. They ensure all workplace parties know their occupational health and safety rights and responsibilities.

Strong public support for workplace health and safety is also key, with many different voices calling for improvement and many different players making positive change happen.

Promoting a culture of health and safety

Safety culture events

To reduce workplace injuries and promote a strong health and safety culture in Ontario, Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) launched the WSPS Safety Connection events in January 2018. These free events are held in various communities across the province.

The two-hour sessions feature an engaging presentation by a WSPS facilitator or other expert in the field. This is followed by question and answer and networking opportunities to share experiences and best practices. The sessions include strategies for participants to apply what they’ve learned to their own workplaces.

Seventeen sessions were held between January and March 2018, with a total of 295 participants. Representatives from WSPS, the Ministry of Labour, the Office of the Employer Advisor and other groups delivered sessions on mental health and chronic stress, accreditation of health and safety management systems, falls, robot safety, noise and occupational health and safety training requirements.

Employer investments in occupational health and safety

Preventing workplace injuries and illnesses is the goal, but what is the cost for individual workplaces? An Institute for Work and Health (IWH) study found that, on average, Ontario employers spend $1,418 per worker every year to protect their workers. Annual occupational health and safety spending per worker ranged from $4,433 in the mining sector to $584 in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector. Across all sectors, the largest share of annual spending went to “organizational management and supervision.” This benchmark information on health and safety spending may help system partners and employer strengthen workplace prevention and assess the health and safety commitments of individual employers.

Evaluation of Ontario’s mandatory occupational health and safety awareness training

About 62% of Ontario workers reported taking the mandatory basic occupational health and safety awareness training introduced by the province in July 2014, according to an IWH study. Workers who took the training were more aware of workplace health and safety rights and responsibilities than workers who did not. Led by IWH senior scientist Dr. Peter Smith, the study involved three surveys conducted at about the same time in Ontario and British Columbia. “In Ontario, we observed a rise in occupational health and safety awareness and empowerment scores in the second survey after the mandatory training was introduced,” Dr. Smith said. “However, we also saw a similar rise in British Columbia, where no new program was introduced.” The research was unable to determine if awareness of occupational health and safety had increased once mandatory training began and materials were made available, or whether improved methods are needed to raise awareness. The Ministry will continue to explore ways to enhance worker and supervisor awareness.

Accreditation and employer recognition

The ministry’s Prevention Office has been exploring potential programs to recognize employers that go beyond minimum compliance and implement successful occupational health and safety management systems (OHSMS). The goal is to make workplaces healthier and safer.

From November 2016 to February 2018, the Prevention Office held targeted and public consultations with employer and labour stakeholders, health and safety partners and subject matter experts. Their input helped to develop a proposed draft OHSMS accreditation standard and proposed elements that make up the employer recognition part of the program. Stakeholders were brought in early in the policy cycle to develop the best program possible.

The goal of the voluntary program is to recognize employers that have successfully implemented an OHSMS, which continually improve workplace health and safety and supports other criteria established by the Chief Prevention Officer.

In addition, the OHSMS Accreditation and Employer Recognition program encourages employers to use national and international standards. Consultation on the standard is finished and the ministry is working on next steps.

The Workwell app

In January 2018, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) launched the Workwell mobile app to help companies improve their workplace health and safety while helping workers return to work. By using this free mobile app, workplaces can evaluate their program against the Workwell standard, save evaluations and share their assessments. It can also be used to search health and safety standards and resources to make improvements. The app was downloaded 789 times in the first three months after it was released.