Message from the Chief Prevention Officer and the Assistant Deputy Minister of Operations

What a year this has been. During these unprecedented times, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) has been busy working on behalf of Ontarians to improve health and safety in the workplace.

In 2019-20, our ministry continued to build our health and safety system in an integrated way. We were able to renew our commitment to working together and leading Ontario’s health and safety system towards improvements. We and our health and safety system partners ensure that we are all planning and working together in alignment to reach our shared objectives and priorities. We are committed to capitalizing on new opportunities to drive positive change in Ontario, and we take a preventative and proactive approach when it comes to workplace health and safety.

In 2019, there were 73 fatalities from traumatic injuries in Ontario, down from 85 in 2018. It is worth noting that there were 17 fatalities in 2019 due to falls from height (down from 21 in 2018) and, as of February 2021, there have been eleven fatalities in 2020 due to falls from height. The 2020 statistics require annual confirmation with WSIB, which takes place in April.

In the 2019-2020 fiscal year alone, over 204,000 workers completed working at heights training or refresher training. The Institute for Work and Health, in its evaluation of the implementation and effectiveness of Ontario’s working at heights training standard (PDF), found evidence that working at heights training reached the target audience and had an impact at the work site. From May 6–10, 2019 the ministry and its health and safety association (HSA) partners asked workplaces to participate in Ontario’s second annual Falls Awareness Week (FAW). Through workplace discussion and participation, the Falls Awareness Week campaign brings awareness to the falls hazards that exist in every workplace.

Towards the end of the last fiscal year, the COVID‑19 pandemic played a central role in our workplace activities and how we operated as a ministry. Through inter-agency cooperation and engagement, the Coronavirus Advisory Team of the Operations Division and the Pandemic Workplace Safety Branch of the Prevention Office have done a great deal of preventative and enforcement work beyond the end of last fiscal year. Our ministry and our health and safety system partners facilitated the production of hundreds of guidance documents and a workplace safety plan, and we continue to learn lessons on how best to respond to the pandemic to keep Ontarians safe.

Ministry inspectors have continued to perform inspections based on risk. During the last fiscal year, MLTSD conducted over 81,000 field visits to workplaces, both proactive and reactive. The main purpose is to monitor for compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) through the use of administrative and regulatory enforcement powers. Inspections also serve to raise awareness of workplace hazards and workplace rights and responsibilities.

As part of our ministry’s vision to foster a strong culture of workplace health and safety through collaboration we have created a voluntary accreditation and employer recognition program. The Supporting Ontario’s Safe Employers (SOSE) program, announced in November of 2019, is the first of its kind in Canada, encouraging workplaces to improve health and safety and prevent injury and illness. Organizations recognized by the Chief Prevention Officer (CPO) for successfully implementing an accredited occupational health and safety system may also be eligible for financial incentives from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

Complementing the SOSE program, WSIB launched its Health and Safety Excellence Program (HSEP) in November 2019. This program involves minimal administrative effort because it is available through a digital platform. It helps businesses to improve workplace health and safety by providing them with financial and non-financial incentives, support from a WSIB-approved provider and a clear roadmap to workplace health and safety.

And the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association’s COR™ 2020 program has been CPO-accredited as an occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS) for the purposes of the SOSE program. This means that organizations that have achieved their COR™ 2020 certification can apply to become a CPO-recognized employer and may be eligible for financial incentives from WSIB.

System partners have come together to plan and deliver communications and marketing, training and education, and compliance support activities that align with strategic priorities across the system. To better support Ontario workplaces, the ministry has started working with the health and safety associations to develop new health and safety programs. Over the 2019-20 fiscal year, the CPO set aside a minimum of 10% of the annual transfer payment budget provided to four health and safety associations to address the most dangerous and high-risk sectors.

Part of our ministry’s vision has also entailed its restructuring. The new, expanded MLTSD includes the Employment & Training Division and the Workplace Policy & Innovation Division, which used to belong to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (now the Ministry of Colleges and Universities). It also includes the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program, which used to belong to the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation & Trade. This means that all Government of Ontario functions related to workplaces and employment are now housed in one ministry.

In 2019, MLTSD undertook a health and safety compliance initiative entitled high risk traumatic hazards– slips, trips and falls. The rationale behind the initiative was that from 2011 to 2017, falls were among the highest cause of traumatic fatalities in the province. Workplace violence prevention in the health care and education sectors has also been a key focus of the ministry’s compliance program over the past few years. Data show violence is a growing issue especially in the health care and education sectors.

Together, we — our ministry, our health and safety system partners, and Ontarians — have done a great deal to make sure Ontario workplaces are safe and healthy.

  • Ron Kelusky
    Chief Prevention Officer, Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development
  • Jody Young
    Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development