Ontario’s occupational health and safety system is complex and includes many organizations. To have the most impact on health and safety in Ontario workplaces, it is important that the partners work together towards the same goals. Organizations that have expertise can learn from one another and, together, be more effective.

The following are some examples of ways the system collaborated in 2019-2020.

Integration of Ministry of Labour with Training and Skills Development

Beginning in October of 2019, the Ministry of Labour (MOL) expanded and became the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD). The Strategic Integration Secretariat was developed in response to this transformation.

The new, expanded MLTSD includes the Employment and Training Division and the Workplace Policy and 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 be part of the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. This change means that the newly formed MLTSD will truly be a ministry of “work”, with all Government of Ontario functions related to workplaces and employment now housed in one ministry.

The Strategic Integration Secretariat was created to develop an integration plan that helps the new ministry serve the public on work-related issues. The Secretariat’s work is ongoing and focuses on:

  • looking for opportunities for collaboration across the new ministry’s teams, branches and divisions
  • coordinating business practices so the ministry is more efficient and delivers even better results
  • reviewing the ministry’s organizational structure to make sure it supports the needs of Ontarians in the best ways possible; and
  • expressing a vision that represents all parts of the new ministry and has its eye on the future

In January of 2020, MLTSD began discussions with the Ministry of Health and Public Health Ontario about COVID‑19, and MLTSD inspectors were conducting proactive visits. In March of 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID‑19 a global pandemic. Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development immediately collaborated with occupational health and safety partners to help protect workers from the virus. This included leading and participating in decision-making tables with other ministries and stakeholders.

Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) worked with provincial health and safety associations to develop sector-specific guidance documents and resources to help essential businesses continue working safely and protect workers from COVID‑19. For example, the Chief Prevention Officer worked quickly with stakeholders in the construction sector to update guidance to help construction employers and employees better understand their responsibilities and what is needed to stop the spread of COVID‑19 on the job site. The update addressed sector-specific topics such as providing better on-site sanitation (with a focus on high-touch areas like site trailers, door handles and hoists); communicating roles, responsibilities and health and safety policies by, for example, posting site sanitation schedules and work schedules; and enabling greater distance between workers by staggering shifts, restricting site numbers, and limiting elevator usage. We also worked collaboratively on supporting items such as a risk assessment tool and a workplace safety plan.

From mid-March, when many of our office staff began working from home to lessen the spread of the virus, we have worked together over online meeting platforms to deliver these essential pieces of guidance to Ontarians. During this time, the health and safety associations and private training providers began preparations to move their training and services online. Our health and safety inspectors, however, continued to respond to complaints and work refusals and conduct in-person inspections through the peak of the pandemic.

Learning a new way of working together, we rose to the challenge.

Work to help protect workers and support employers, including reopening the economy, carried on as the pandemic evolved through the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Consultations on 2021-26 occupational health and safety strategy

In 2019 the ministry worked with its health and safety system partners to develop Ontario’s next occupational health and safety strategy, due to be released in 2021.

In April of 2019, the ministry held in-person and online public consultations to gather feedback. Over 1,000 Ontarians provided our ministry with suggestions on how to promote workplace health and safety, strengthen the occupational health and safety system, and support Ontario businesses in improving their health and safety. Therefore, the focus will be evidence-based, crafted based on a public health model, and focused on outcomes and accountability. Measurement of its effectiveness will be linked to the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario’s 2019 Annual Report.

The meetings took place in seven different Ontario cities — Hamilton, Kingston, London, Mississauga, Ottawa, Sudbury and Thunder Bay — in meeting spaces provided by our ministry’s health and safety system partners. Participants included employers, workers, employer associations, lawyers, health and safety consultants, private training providers, health and safety associations and representatives from local municipalities.

Supporting Ontario’s Safe Employers program, developed in parallel with Health and Safety Excellence Program

In November 2019 the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) announced the Supporting Ontario’s Safe Employers (SOSE) program, the first of its kind in Canada. Supporting Ontario’s Safe Employers is a voluntary accreditation and employer recognition program. It motivates Ontario employers to adopt occupational health and safety management systems (OHSMSs) that go beyond minimum compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). In this way, it encourages workplaces to improve health and safety and prevent injury, illness and fatalities.

The Supporting Ontario’s Safe Employers (SOSE) program was developed based on the recommendations of the 2010 Expert Advisory Panel Report (EAP) led by Tony Dean, a former Deputy Minister of Labour. The EAP made a recommendation that Ontario should have a voluntary accreditation program. Changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 2016 gave the CPO the authority to establish standards that an OHSMS would have to meet to become accredited by the Chief Prevention Officer. The changes also give the CPO the power to approve new and existing OHSMS that meet ministry standards, and to recognize employers that put CPO-approved standards into place and meet other compliance criteria.

The SOSE program offers incentives to employers that have put into place a CPO-approved OHSMS. Non-financial incentives include having the organization’s name published on the ministry’s website and allowing these organizations to use CPO branding that shows they meet the program’s requirements.

Complementing the SOSE program, WSIB launched its Health and Safety Excellence Program (HSEp) in November 2019. The program offers 36 health and safety topics that are building blocks to SOSE. Besides expert support and guidance for workplaces trying to improve health and safety, direct benefits include recognition badges and rebates on WSIB premiums. This program has a flexible design and offers a clear roadmap to achieving a better workplace health and safety culture. Learn more about the Health and Safety Excellence Program.

Of note is that the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association’s COR™ 2020 program has been CPO-accredited as an 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.

2019-20 funding modernization for Health and Safety Associations

Starting in 2019-2020, the ministry modernized its funding relationship with the Health and Safety Associations (HSAs) by introducing a new funding model. The new model will increase accountability and ensure better use of evidence and performance measurement and improved return on investment.

The new model includes:

  • allocation of 10% of base budgets for programs in high-risk areas that require immediate solutions (see next section on CPO-directed programs)
  • ensuring these programs are developed using evidence and demonstrate value for money
  • ensuring that programs include targets and an evaluation plan
  • obtaining information on sectors served by certain HSAs (for example, employers, geographic locations, key stakeholders)

CPO-directed programs

Beginning in 2019-20, the CPO set aside a minimum of 10% of the annual transfer payment budget provided to four of the six Health and Safety Associations to address the most dangerous and high-risk sectors. Some of these priority sectors include forestry, mining, agriculture, construction, transportation and young workers in manufacturing. In addition, the Safe Workplace Associations (SWAs) were also asked to address the issue of mental health, which cuts across all sectors. The SWAs have up to three years to implement their programs starting in 2019-20. At present some of these programs have reached completion. Others are near completion or underway.

In 2019-20, the following programs were approved by the CPO:

Public Services Health & Safety Association (PSHSA)

Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA)

  • General Trucking
  • Residential Construction
    • Awareness brochure for homeowners (PDF) – a direct-mail publication to educate homeowners whose subdivision was built approximately 10–14 years ago. The publication highlighted the risks associated with hiring roofing contractors who are not registered with WSIB and/or who have not completed working at heights (WAH) training in accordance with the working at heights training program and training provider standards.

Workplace Safety North (WSN)

Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS)

The Research management framework

The Prevention Office developed the Research Management Framework (RMF). Its role is to guide occupational health and safety research activities and funding within the occupational health and safety (OHS) system, and its goal is to make a positive impact and provide Ontarians with value for money spent on research.

The RMF introduces the Prevention Office’s approach to creating high-quality evidence and data on important OHS issues and solutions. It does this through focused research and partnerships. It also presents strategic actions to turn research into practice to ensure evidence and data are used to inform OHS programs, policies and decision-making. The RMF provides a strong foundation on how to evaluate and measure the performance of OHS activities.

This is an important milestone and tool for the Prevention Office and the OHS system. It will guide strategic research and support the implementation of the upcoming OHS strategy. All the OHS system partners will be expected to align their strategic plans with the RMF.

Occupational health and safety research

In 2019-20, the ministry provided operational funding support to five occupational health and safety research centres:

Funding supports workplace health and safety research on topics such as occupational disease, occupational cancers, disability prevention and prevention of musculoskeletal disorders. Research centres completed 39 projects and produced 132 publications in 2019-20.

Through the previously funded Research Opportunities Program (ROP) and the Occupational Health, Safety and Prevention Innovation Program (OHSPIP), 10 research projects were completed in 2019-20. The projects addressed the following topics:

  • organizational change in long-term care
  • mobile equipment hazards
  • worker health protection
  • heat-vulnerable workers
  • how to address exposures to harmful substances in the workplace
  • risk of cancer in the construction industry
  • the Internal Responsibility System
  • occupational exposures in nail salons
  • workplace mental health
  • health and safety among police officers

The research and related activities were used in areas such as:

  • occupational disease and injury surveillance
  • workplace exposure surveillance tools
  • improving the understanding and prevention of occupational disease and work-related musculoskeletal disorders
  • informing policies and procedures of long-term care centres in Ontario
  • development of gender and sex-sensitive OHS policies
  • professionals in the ergonomic, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and disability management fields
  • compensation boards and workers’ health clinics
  • informing policies and procedures of mining companies
  • creation of educational kits for the mining community (vibration, fatigue and line-of-sight safety kits)

More information on Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development prevention office research can be found on the website.

Ipsos survey: Attitudes, opinions, and behaviours of workers in Ontario

In 2018, MLTSD asked Ipsos to conduct a survey of Ontarians to find out about attitudes, opinions, beliefs and behaviours of workers related to occupational health and safety. In total 5,365 Ontario workers and managers participated in the survey. The survey revealed that general knowledge about OHS in Ontario was relatively strong, with 61% of respondents indicating they were knowledgeable. The vast majority of those who claimed to know about OHS (78%) said their employers provided them with the relevant information. The most sought-after types of information included material on harassment, dangerous substances, slipping and tripping, mental health, back injuries, repetitive strain injuries, machine safety and violence at work. Noteworthy was that most respondents (84%) who received OHS training reported that it was useful. Ipsos found that, when learning about OHS rules and procedures, respondents were most likely to trust organizations dedicated to providing health and safety information, their supervisors or managers. The survey also indicated mental illness or stress was recognized as one of the highest risks associated with the workplaces. The information from the survey will help the ministry to better support Ontario workers when creating new policy and programs.

Strategic foresight

The Prevention Office launched a strategic foresight study on the future of occupational health and safety in Ontario. It did so in response to rapid changes and increased uncertainties in the workplace in Canada and around the world. The goal of the study is to anticipate future hazards and risks to occupational health and safety up until 2035 and to take actions to protect the health and safety of Ontario workers and workplaces.

To achieve this goal, the Prevention Office worked with the Policy Innovation Hub in Cabinet Office to conduct a study of the future through internet searches and expert interviews, looking for signals of change and trends related to occupational health and safety in Ontario. Common trends included the increasing amount of remote work and the rise of platform companies, or the gig economy.

Based on these trends, the study identified a set of possible scenarios about what the future of OHS could look like in Ontario. It also identified recommendations on the way forward.

This study is an important step towards a proactive approach to identifying and tracking emerging trends and positioning the ministry to address present and future occupational health and safety issues. It will be used to inform future prevention-related research and initiatives in Ontario. This work has also informed the development of the 2021-26 Occupational Health and Safety Strategy.

Risk assessments

Risk assessment and root-cause analysis workshops are used by MLTSD to help industry sectors identify high-risk events and hazards in their workplaces. This allows the ministry, health and safety partners, and industry sectors to work together to reduce those risks and prevent workplace injury, illness and deaths. These risk assessment workshops bring together experts — employers, workers, academics, enforcement and HSA staff — to identify, discuss and analyze the leading risks in different sectors. While the ministry and HSAs lead the sessions, it is the workers and employers who have the final say in identifying and ranking the risks. This approach builds on a “for the industry, by the industry” perspective.

In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the ministry arranged risk assessment workshops for the transportation-general trucking-general freight sector. A root-cause analysis workshop on the topic of driver fatigue was conducted for this sector, a root-cause analysis on distracted driving was conducted for the logging sector, and a root-cause analysis on water management was conducted for the underground mining sector. In addition, phase one of a root-cause analysis for working at heights training was conducted for the roofing sector. Work continues on generating solutions and controls for the underground mining, logging, sawmills, and greenhouse sectors based on the results from earlier workshops.

An important part of the ministry’s process is recognizing that one organization or person can’t provide all the perspectives needed for an accurate understanding of risk. Engaging workers and employers from many workplaces and sectors lets them see and share different perspectives and agree on the top health and safety risks in the sector. This lets system partners focus their resources on the highest risks.

Identifying the highest-risk hazards by each sector also allows the ministry to collect and analyze the most relevant data to make decisions.

These workshops have been widely recognized by industry and system partners as an effective way of collecting insight on workplace issues and as a best practice for engagement and collaboration. By coming together, system partners and workplaces can better understand the issues and develop better prevention strategies.

Safe At Work Ontario consultations

Safe At Work Ontario (SAWO) is a MLTSD Operations Division program to raise awareness of, and support compliance with, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). Safe At Work Ontario helps to direct the ministry’s efforts on the areas of greatest need through annual sector-specific compliance plans. These plans guide the work of inspectors and their proactive visits while providing additional transparency on their activities.

Ongoing stakeholder engagement is key to SAWO. It helps the ministry understand what is happening in workplaces, so it can respond to changes. The ministry uses the information gathered during stakeholder consultations as part of its planning processes.

In October of 2019, the ministry’s Operations Division held consultations to support Safe at Work Ontario. Co-hosted with Ontario’s HSAs, the consultations sought input from stakeholders on the ministry’s compliance strategy to help promote healthy and safe workplaces. The ministry released a consultation paper online in advance of the sessions, with links and resources, for stakeholder review. This year an additional online survey was posted with the consultation paper asking stakeholders for their opinion on topics for upcoming health and safety initiatives.

Stakeholders were notified and invited to consultations via various means through email, the ministry’s What’s New newsletter, HSAs, stakeholder meetings and a posting on the website with the consultation paper. We encouraged employers, workers and other workplace health and safety stakeholders to participate in our consultation sessions.

Over 100 stakeholders provided feedback through our sessions and our online survey. The survey was used to collect information to help shape the ministry’s focus for the 2020-21 initiatives on high-risk traumatic hazards and occupational health hazards. The results are as follows:

Top high-risk traumatic concerns, based on stakeholder feedback

  1. violence
  2. slips, trips and falls
  3. prevention/awareness training
  4. motor vehicle incidents/traffic
  5. musculoskeletal disorders
  6. personal protective equipment (PPE)
  7. cuts
  8. struck by
  9. electrical
  10. arc flash drop zone

Top occupational health concerns, based on stakeholder feedback

  1. musculoskeletal disorders
  2. mental health
  3. violence
  4. noise
  5. harassment
  6. supervisor accountability/training
  7. education/awareness/training
  8. dust
  9. carcinogens
  10. infection control
  11. fatigue/overwork
  12. slips, trips and falls

Stakeholders also identified a number of topics that have an effect on occupational health and safety beyond identified hazards. Some of these topics included:

  • aging workforce
  • impairment/fit-for-duty
  • staffing levels
  • mental health/workplace stress

For more information on the Safe At Work Ontario sessions, please email SAWOconsultations@ontario.ca.

Occupational disease

In Ontario, more workers die from occupational diseases than injuries. In 2019 there were 117 deaths from occupational disease, compared with 73 deaths from traumatic injuries, according to the WSIB. Occupational diseases have high financial costs to workers, businesses and the compensation system. Between 2010 and 2019, the WSIB allowed about 136,000 occupational disease claims, which made up over $910 million in benefit costs. However, workers compensation statistics largely underestimate the true impact of occupational illness because many occupational diseases are not recognized or reported.

The Occupational Disease Action Plan (ODAP) is a project that brings together system partners and those from the broader network — such as Public Health Ontario and the Lung Health Foundation — to focus on occupational disease prevention. In 2019-2020 ODAP continued to align the work of the system partners with the goal of reducing hazardous exposures in Ontario workplaces and decreasing the incidence and burden of occupational disease.

The ODAP added a new working group to focus on the control and prevention of respiratory hazards that included asbestos, crystalline silica, diesel engine exhaust, welding fumes, dusts and vapours from paints and solvents, cleaning products and isocyanates. Approximately 70% of allowed occupational disease claims are for lung diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that take years to develop after the first exposure to respiratory hazards at work.

To increase awareness of the control of exposures to respiratory hazards, ODAP members posted resources and tools on the Prevent Occupational Disease website. A link to the website was shared in a toolkit, developed for the Healthy Workers in Healthy Workplaces initiative. Additionally, ODAP members delivered a respiratory hazards webinar and presented at the Partners in Prevention regional conferences in Ottawa and Thunder Bay.

Other activities in 2019-20 include the creation and launch of a HazardAssess app by Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), in partnership with Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), which allows workers to identify and communicate about hazards in the workplace and learn about controls, and a two-day national occupational disease exposure and surveillance workshop, hosted by the Occupational Cancer Research Centre. The workshop brought together representatives from the federal and provincial governments, government agencies, unions, compensation boards and researchers from across the country to share experiences, identify new and effective systems to monitor occupational disease trends, and identify opportunities to continue to work together.

Construction health and safety action plan

Released in May 2017, Ontario’s Construction Health and Safety Action Plan (CHSAP) contains 16 recommendations and 41 initiatives. Its aim is to create a more knowledgeable, skilled construction sector and to increase compliance with occupational health and safety laws. Most of these activities are either completed or ongoing.

In 2019, the Auditor General of Ontario advised that the ministry continue putting into place recommendations outlined in sector-specific action plans, including CHSAP. Based on the auditor general’s advice and the CHSAP Advisory Group’s input, the ministry developed a new framework to guide CHSAPs implementation. The new framework includes ways to strengthen responsibility and performance measurement. It also includes four focus areas for the future:

  1. helping employers and workers increase compliance 
  2. strengthening collaboration and partnership with the construction sector
  3. creating environments that encourage and promote workplace health and safety
  4. developing a stronger evidence base and exploring new ways to promote health and safety

Falls Awareness Week

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 FAW campaign brings awareness to the falls hazards that exist in every workplace.

During FAW, workplaces are encouraged to stop work for 15–30 minutes to have a safety talk about common fall hazards in their work environment. The talks encourage an environment of open communication where workplace questions and concerns can be addressed.

Falls awareness week participants were encouraged to use free downloadable Fall Prevention Safety Toolkits, developed by each HSA with support from the ministry. More than 1,000 toolkits were downloaded.

The 2019 campaign brought attention to all types of slip, trip and fall hazards across all sectors in Ontario. For 2019, FAW formed part of the compliance assistance portion of the slips, trips and falls inspection initiative. Falls Awareness Week increases workplace knowledge and promotes awareness of construction workplace hazards.

Small business

Research and discussions with system partners continues to address the needs and information gaps small businesses have in complying with occupational health and safety standards. This work has also informed the development of the 2021-26 Occupational Health and Safety Strategy.

Health and safety webpage for small businesses

The ministry launched an updated webpage specifically for small businesses. The content is presented in a user-friendly format for business owners. The information is arranged by number of workers to give information on minimum administrative requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. It also contains direct links to the mandatory posting and training requirements, along with other resources to support small businesses.

Small business resources

The ministry and system partners continue to encourage small businesses to use the Small Business Toolkit, a step-by-step approach to starting a health and safety program. In 2019-20, the toolkit was downloaded over 1,200 times. The toolkit is available from Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) (PDF), Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA) (PDF), Workplace Safety and Prevention Services  (WSPS) or Workplace Safety North (WSN) (PDF).

Likewise, the health and safety representative (HSR) basic training guidelines and eLearning program, has provided training to over 760 participants across more than 230 workplaces. The training is available through the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association, Public Services Health and Safety Association, Workplace Safety and Prevention Services and Workplace Safety North.

The ministry has worked with system partners on the development of plans to evaluate the uptake and effectiveness of this program. The ministry is also reviewing options to promote this training among small businesses to increase uptake.

Small business outreach with summer students

From May to July 2019, over 11,000 small businesses were visited by 30 summer students across Ontario (Newmarket, Greater Toronto Area, St. Catharines, Hamilton, London, Ottawa and Timmins). The most visited sectors were retail, restaurants, personal and household services and professional medical offices. Nearly all small business owners accepted the resources offered by the students and one out of five agreed to complete a survey. Close to 2,500 businesses wanted to keep in touch with the ministry by registering for the ministry’s newsletter or participating in the summer student’s research.

Acting as the ministry’s ambassadors, students offered and presented the free printed resources on the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA). Some materials were translated and presented by students in other languages including French, Tamil, Cantonese and Mandarin. While presenting the ministry’s updated webpage, students also introduced new ergonomics posters with small businesses. The final versions of the posters were later added to the Quick Start Guideline: Office as part of the Musculoskeletal Disorders Prevention Guideline for Ontario for small businesses.

In addition to sharing the ministry’s materials, summer students also provided information and resources from Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, Workplace Safety and Prevention Services and the Institute for Work and Health.

Workplace vulnerability

The ministry continues to address the occupational health and safety needs of workers at increased risk for workplace accidents, injuries or diseases. During consultations for the next Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Strategy, one of the discussion topics included barriers to workplace health, safety and well-being. Factors causing workplace vulnerability were noted during the meetings, including temporary and precarious work, chemical exposures and the challenges in accessing health and safety information.

To continue understanding workplace vulnerability, the Operations Division created a Workplace Vulnerability Working Group with the OHS system partners. The purpose was to share information and to identify opportunities for potential collaborations.

Young workers

Building on the research conducted in 2018, priorities for CPO-directed programs in 2019-20 included young workers and manufacturing. Manufacturing has been identified as one of the sectors where young workers were more likely to be injured, and other sectors include administration, waste management and constructionfootnote 1 footnote 2 Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS) will examine how to reduce lost-time injuries among young workers employed in the manufacturing sector in the Windsor-Essex area, with a focus on struck by objects injuries.

Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) has also been consulting with the Ministry of Education to incorporate occupational health and safety into school curricula. Both ministries are exploring other opportunities to increase health and safety awareness and training for youth.

Promoting mental health, preventing mental injury

The moral and business case for supporting mental health in the workplace is clear. An estimated 500,000 workers in Canada are unable to come to work each week due to poor mental health.footnote 3 Further, the annual economic cost of poor mental health in Canadian workplaces is at least $50 billion.footnote 4

Throughout the past year, system partners continued to provide tools and services to help employers promote mental well-being and prevent psychological injury in the workplace. Two CPO-directed projects focused on mental health in the workplace. Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA), in partnership with McMaster University, is delivering Beyond Silence training sessions on an ongoing basis. Participants in health care and public safety sectors are trained on how to promote psychological health and safety in their workplaces. Additionally, PSHSA and partners developed the Beyond Silence App, which is designed to be a coach in your pocket, providing accessible, high-quality, confidential information and mental health support to health care workers in small and large organizations.

The system also worked together over the last year to prevent violence and harassment in the workplace. For example, the ministry published on its website the new workplace violence prevention guide for hospitals, long-term care and home care workplaces.

Workplace Violence Prevention in Health Care: A Guide to the Law will help workplaces understand their responsibilities when it comes to workplace violence. In addition to raising awareness around this issue, the ministry continued to enforce the requirements relating to harassment and violence prevention policies in the workplace.

Moreover, the ministry heard from the public and our system partners during the spring 2019 Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) strategy consultations that mental health in the workplace is a serious issue which we must do more to address. The workplace mental health system working group, which includes representatives from the health and safety associations (HSAs), Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) and the ministry, highlighted the need for strategic system collaboration to improve mental health outcomes in the workplace.

Ergonomics – musculoskeletal disorders

Poor ergonomics in the workplace can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Musculoskeletal disorders is an umbrella term for several injuries and disorders of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, bone and nerves. Musculoskeletal disorders cause pain and disability for workers and lead to high costs for workers and businesses. According to the WSIB, MSDs make up approximately one-third of all allowed lost-time claims.

In October 2018, the Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders (CRE-MSD) launched Ontario’s new Musculoskeletal disorders Prevention Guideline along with an accompanying website.

The guideline gives employers free information and tools to prevent MSDs in their workplace.

In 2018, the guideline was divided into three sections:

  1. a Quick Start Guide for small and micro businesses
  2. a Basic Guideline for medium-sized organizations
  3. a Comprehensive Guideline for large organizations

The Quick Start Guide, which supports small businesses by providing a simple tool to prevent MSDs, can also be used by any workplace. It contains free posters and information that workplaces of all sizes can use.

In 2019, a companion document, the Office Quick Start Guide, was added to the guideline. Its purpose is to help businesses improve office work and help prevent pain at work.

Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders (CRE-MSD) received funding from MLTSD in 2019. The organization continues collaborating with system partners and seeking input from Ontario businesses and workers in its efforts to keep the guideline up to date.