Small businesses (fewer than 50 workers) face unique challenges to develop effective workplace health and safety practices. In 2017, small businesses employed about 29% of workers in Ontario, but they accounted for 52% of fatalities and 31% of lost-time injury claims.

Some small businesses lack the resources or knowledge to meet occupational health and safety requirements. Clear, accessible and low-cost resources, programs and services can significantly reduce workplace injuries and fatalities. System partners are working on this to help small businesses build a culture of workplace safety.

In 2017, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) provided a total of $1 million in rebates to small businesses that made occupational health and safety improvements in their workplaces. 922 small businesses successfully completed the WSIB's Building Your Health and Safety Program.

Supporting small businesses

Small Business Advisory Service pilot

WSPS represents 167,000 firms in Ontario, 85% of which are small businesses. Workers can be vulnerable to hazards especially if a business lacks the resources to get professional help to improve their workplace health and safety.

To reduce these increased risks, WSPS piloted the Small Business Advisory Service which matches a small business with a highly trained WSPS volunteer advisor. All volunteers are certified Canadian Registered Safety Professionals.

The advisory service helped the small business owner/operator understand their role in creating and maintaining a safe work environment. The volunteer advisor provided guidance and helped the small business conduct an inspection to understand the main hazards in their workplace. The volunteer advisor first goes through an orientation on process that includes a simple 4-step resource handbook. This ensures that all the advisors followed a similar and consistent path to improvement.

During the pilot, WSPS matched 19 small businesses with a volunteer advisor. The outcomes were measured using qualitative data through open ended questions. The responses were very positive, saying that they would recommend this program to other small businesses. As a result, WSPS is extending the program into the 2018/19 fiscal year and expanding the number of small business being reached.

Tamara Meier, a small business representative from Vantage Property Ltd., says:

It’s always wise to have staff with CPR/first aid certification and safety measures in place so everyone is safe. We would definitely recommend this service to other small businesses. Many small businesses are on a strict budget. This type of program also allows a company to make improvements without feeling pressured or overwhelmed.

Small Business Leadership Awards

The WSIB’s Small Business Health and Safety Leadership Awards was launched in May 2017. The awards recognize outstanding health and safety programs in small businesses with fewer than 50 workers. The system partners collectively promoted the awards. Last year, fifty-eight nominations were received. Three small business health and safety champions were awarded at the WSIB Annual General Meeting in September 2017. Nominations for the 2018 awards were closed on June 22, 2018.

Electronic X-ray forms

Since March 2018, employers planning to use or install X-ray sources at their workplace can access and submit forms and other documents electronically. This makes it more convenient for small businesses, such as veterinary clinics, to register with the ministry’s Radiation Protection Service and to apply to have the proposed installation reviewed.