Ontario’s occupational health and safety (OHS) record is among the best in Canada, with our province achieving the lowest rate of work time lost to injury among any province or territory since 2009footnote 2. With over 427,000 business operating in Ontario,footnote 3 we are proud of our accomplishments, but we are also aware that injuries, illnesses and deaths continue to be an issue in workplaces of all sizes across the province. This is why we are committed to continuing to improve - we believe that every workplace injury, illness and fatality is preventable.

As the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario noted in their 2019 Annual Report, in 2018:footnote 4

  • 85 people in Ontario died at work
  • An additional 62,000 were absent from work because of a work-related injury
  • 143 people died from an occupational illness
  • On average, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) pays out $2.6 billion annually to claimants and their families for work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths.

Under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Chief Prevention Officer (CPO) is responsible for developing a provincial OHS strategy that helps the OHS system ensure Ontario continues to be one of the safest places to work, while also seeking areas for improvement. Ontario’s first OHS strategy – Healthy and Safe Ontario Workplaces – was launched in 2013 and paved the way for important advancements in protecting Ontarians while on the jobfootnote 5.

This new strategy – called Prevention Works – covers the 5-year period from 2021-2026 and is a call to action for all OHS system partners to continue to work together on improving Ontario’s strong occupational health and safety record. This strategy:

  • sets a clear direction by affirming the vision for where the OHS system wants to be
  • sets objectives, intended outcomes and areas of systems focus that tell us what we need to do to get there
  • makes a commitment that the OHS system will develop and implement a performance measurement framework that will measure progress towards achieving our intended outcomes

Prevention Works builds on the success of the previous strategy in unifying the OHS system and will serve as the foundation for increased collaboration moving forward. The strategy will guide the planning, implementation and measurement of our activities, programs and services that are designed to achieve our intended outcomes and will advance the importance and use of foundational OHS concepts and tools, including the Internal Responsibility System (IRS)footnote 6 and the Hierarchy of Controls.footnote 7footnote 8 In an environment where workplaces are continually changing, this strategy will enable the OHS system to act on evidence, anticipate emerging OHS issues and prioritize occupational health and safety issues in a flexible and adaptable way.

Learning about what matters most

To develop this strategy and learn about the OHS priorities that matter most to Ontarians, the ministry held consultations across the province with representation from the general public and various other stakeholders, including employers, industry associations and labour groupsfootnote 9. Participation was high, with over 1,000 people taking part.

The ministry also conducted extensive OHS research, including jurisdictional and environmental scans, literature reviews, data and statistical analysis from a variety of sources, as well as a benchmark public opinion survey of over 5,300 Ontarians to understand people’s attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and behaviours relating to occupational health and safety. As in the case of the previous strategy, collaboration between OHS system partners also played an important role in the development of Prevention Works, particularly through advisory committees and forums through which OHS system partners continue to provide invaluable feedback, guidance and expertise.