In December 2013, we released the first five-year provincial strategy on occupational health and safety. The strategy:

  • transformed how prevention activities are addressed by the ministry and its health and safety partners
  • outlined actions to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities in Ontario

The five-year term of the strategy ended in December 2018.

In April 2019, we began consulting with Ontarians to develop the province’s next occupational health and safety strategy. The new strategy will look to:

  • promote workplace health and safety
  • strengthen the existing occupational health and safety system
  • support Ontario businesses

About the consultations

More than 1,000 Ontarians provided feedback through in-person meetings and an online survey.

In-person meetings

Between April 15, 2019 and May 9, 2019, over 200 people attended eight in-person public consultation meetings held in seven locations across Ontario:

  • Hamilton
  • Kingston
  • London
  • Ottawa
  • Sudbury
  • Thunder Bay
  • Mississauga

Participants included:

  • employers
  • workers
  • union representatives
  • injured workers
  • employer associations
  • lawyers
  • health and safety consultants
  • private training providers
  • Ontario health and safety associations
  • representatives from local municipalities

We asked participants to comment on:

  • promotion of health and safety
  • improving workplace health and safety outcomes
  • support for workplaces to improve their health and safety
  • emerging issues in workplace health and safety

Online consultation

Between April15,2019 and May15,2019, we received 815responses through an online survey on Ontario.ca.

We asked online survey respondents about health and safety challenges in their workplaces, emerging issues in health and safety, and their level of agreement with proposed actions and objectives for the ministry and its health and safety partners.

Who we heard from

Results from the online survey showed:

  • 32% responded as workers
  • 14% responded as employers
  • 30% responded as health and safety professionals

The majority of respondents were over the age of45 and few young workers responded. The percentage of respondents by age group was:

  • 25 to 34 years old: 11.3%
  • 35 to 44 years old: 18.8%
  • 45 to 54 years old: 31%
  • 55 to 64 years old: 28%
  • 65 years old and older: 4.7%
  • Preferred not to say: 3.7%

The sectors with the highest representation were:

  • construction: 17%
  • health care: 18%

Respondents indicated they were from organizations in sizes ranging from:

  • 1 to 19: 14%
  • 20 to 49: 7.9%
  • 50 to 199: 21.7%
  • 200 to 500: 15.6%
  • Over 500: 38.7%

Learn more about who responded to our survey.

What we heard

Qualitative feedback

We analyzed the qualitative response received and grouped them into the following themes:

Using technology to improve safety in the workplace

Participants highlighted the importance of leveraging new and existing technologies to reduce hazards and risks in the workplace, including:

  • using wearable technology to calculate individual risks
  • eliminating hazards through infrastructure and equipment design

We also heard about how technology can be used to improve health and safety information sharing at the workplace between workplace parties. Suggestions included:

  • enhancing mobile devices to have a health and safety emergency notification feature
  • developing employee access passes equipped with real-time communication technology

Increasing access, collection and quality of health and safety data

Respondents shared opportunities to improve health and safety data, in particular how it is collected and how it can be accessed. Suggested opportunities included:

  • sharing information on workplace accidents and investigations to help workplaces understand how to improve and avoid similar workplace accidents
  • having this information added to existing health and safety data platforms

Participants also indicated the need to effectively collect and share information on the health and safety performance of businesses. For example, one participant suggested creating a platform to publicly grade a company’s health and safety performance, taking an approach similar to food handling safety grading of restaurants.

Making health and safety resources more accessible and affordable

Participants said businesses of all sizes need affordable, plain language resources in a variety of languages. In particular, respondents asked for:

  • more resources in the form of toolkits, guides, and standard templates to help address health and safety responsibilities
  • a single public platform for sharing key health and safety information
  • more online and mobile-friendly options for health and safety resources
  • hard copy resources to ensure engagement with workplace parties who do not have access to mobile technologies (for example, in remote locations)

Delivery and content of health and safety training

Comments identified the need to:

  • provide more health and safety training for all workplace parties – particularly targeted, sector-specific training
  • remove language barriers when delivering health and safety training and making training more affordable
  • explore more ways to access training and new mediums, such as virtual and augmented reality
  • the topic of online health and safety training received a mix of responses, with feedback outlining both the benefits and the potential drawbacks of a completely online approach.

Health and safety partnerships

The responses underscored the importance of developing and leveraging partnerships to:

  • improve occupational health and safety outcomes
  • spread awareness of occupational health and safety
  • develop and share key resources
  • spread knowledge on issues emerging across sectors

Commonly suggested partnerships included:

  • universities and government departments dedicated to education
  • health care providers such as community care clinics and primary care clinics

Respondents also noted the need to create forums for health and safety leaders to share their best practices and expertise, including information on hazards and risks. Examples of opportunities for information sharing included formal partnerships and mentorships between businesses.

Health and safety research opportunities

Consultation respondents identified the opportunity for further research on key health and safety issues. For example, they suggested:

  • researching how health and safety can be considered in the design of a building or work machinery to better prevent injuries and illnesses
  • working with health and safety partners to better understand how new technologies are being used to prevent injury and illness

Improving health and safety compliance support

Enhanced compliance support for all workplace parties was frequently brought up in the consultation feedback. Workplace visits by ministry inspectors were suggested as an opportunity to provide compliance information and coaching to all workplace parties.

Participants gave a wide range of examples on the sort of information workplaces could benefit from during inspection visits, including:

  • guidance for employers on the benefits of good health and safety
  • sharing health and safety best practice tools and resources
  • education for employees on their rights and responsibilities
  • how to speak out against unsafe workplace practices

Health and safety inspections

To improve compliance, increase ministry visibility and capture typical workday safety practices, we received suggestions to:

  • have more frequent and unannounced inspection visits by ministry inspectors
  • increase inspector interaction with workplaces by conducting more visits outside of traditional business hours
  • hire more inspectors to provide adequate support for workplaces
  • enhance inspector training and knowledge on sector-specific issues
  • address repeat offenders
  • have flexible enforcement approaches during workplace visits

Promoting health and safety in the workplace and through Ontario schools

Suggestions to better promote the importance and profile of health and safety in the workplace included:

  • sharing information from past workplace accidents more broadly to highlight the consequences of poor health and safety
  • promoting the internal responsibility system (IRS)
  • using a variety of channels to reach more Ontarians (for example, making more instructional videos available online, sharing resources at in-person gatherings such as trade shows and raising awareness about rights and responsibilities via television and radio advertisements)
  • making information easy to understand, accessible and available in a variety of languages
  • teaching students in Ontario’s schools about fundamental health and safety rights and responsibilities prior to entering the workforce, including:
    • integrating health and safety concepts in elementary, high-school and university curricula
    • incorporating health and safety education in the course requirements for licensed professions and trades and workplace violence prevention training in college and university

Motivating businesses

Consultation participants felt that businesses in Ontario could be better motivated to improve their health and safety performance. Responses encouraged the ministry to:

  • share information with businesses on the monetary and non-monetary costs associated with workplace injuries, accidents or fatalities
  • recognize and accredit businesses for positive health and safety practices

Consultation responses also identified some challenges that may arise with programs that recognize businesses based solely on decreasing lost-time injury data.

Improving health and safety rules

  • Consultation feedback identified some opportunities to improve current health and safety rules and regulations, including:
  • amending regulations to address how new technologies can be used to meet certain standards
  • modernizing legislation and regulations to reflect the changing nature of work and working conditions
  • some respondents also noted challenges with the application of certain regulations, particularly in the construction and industrial sectors

Supporting workers and workplaces

Responses identified a need for the ministry and its health and safety partners to:

  • improve the support for workers and workplaces
  • reduce overlap in services and resources provided by Ontario’s legally recognized health and safety associations
  • provide workplaces with a wide variety of health and safety consulting options
  • clarify how each partner contributes to workplace injury and illness prevention

Improving workplace safety culture and promoting the internal responsibility system

Many respondents called for better employer and employee awareness and understanding of basic health and safety roles and responsibilities in the workplace, including:

  • improving leadership commitment
  • making businesses more aware of the importance of health and safety, especially when they are being created and registered with the province
  • helping workers understand the process involved in refusing unsafe work before they enter the workplace

Emerging areas of focus

Respondents shared their views on the emerging issues facing workplaces. They highlighted the ongoing challenges facing specific groups, including:

  • young workers
  • aging workers
  • newcomers
  • workers in precarious jobs

Issues raised included:

  • violence and burnout for nurses and health care professionals
  • the roles and responsibilities of employers regarding workplace violence and harassment, as stated in the Occupational Health and Safety Act
  • filling research gaps and increasing awareness about occupational illness prevention to protect workers from potential hazards
  • increased support for addressing impairment in the workplace, including providing:
    • more resources about the duty of employees to disclose when they are impaired on the job and the duty of employers to accommodate employees for medical reasons
    • a clear definition of workplace impairment and a list of the jobs and tasks that can lead to greater risk of workplace injury when impairment is present

The consultation responses also touched on other ongoing challenges facing workplaces. These included:

  • the changing nature of work
  • ergonomics and musculoskeletal disorders
  • understanding and addressing hazards related to nanotechnology
  • administrative hazards such as understaffing

Quantitative feedback

Improving health and safety

Survey responses indicate that the top three challenges to improving health and safety in workplaces are:

  • lack of commitment from leadership to health and safety (45%)
  • lack of commitment from workers to health and safety (34%)
  • lack of control for workplace hazards and risks associated with hazards (31%)

These responses were submitted by:

ChallengeWho responded
1. Lack of commitment from leadership to health and safety (45%)
  • worker/employee: 38%
  • occupational health and safety professional: 32%
  • supervisor: 7%
  • employer: 7%
2. Lack of commitment from workers to health and safety (34%)
  • OHS professionals: 33%
  • workers/employees: 27%
  • employers: 17%
  • supervisors: 10%
3. Workplace hazards, and risks associated with the hazards, are not adequately controlled (31%)
  • OHS professionals: 40%
  • workers/employees: 32%
  • employer: 10%

Methods to reduce injuries and illnesses

When asked to rate how successful our efforts have been to reduce injuries and illnesses, the majority of respondents said successful strategies include:

  • training and education (73%)
  • workplace inspection initiatives (62%)
  • legislation and regulations (58%)

The majority of respondents indicated that awareness, communication and marketing campaigns (43%) and recognition programs and other motivators (54%) were unsuccessful to moderately unsuccessful.

Read a full breakdown of these findings.

Objectives for improving OHS

Respondents rated all the objectives for improving OHS listed in the survey as very important. The highest rated objectives were to:

  • improve the value placed on health and safety in the workplace (81%)
  • make sure everyone is aware of health and safety rules in the workplace (80%)

See a full breakdown of these findings.

Preventing occupational disease and illness

The majority of respondents considered all of the actions listed in the survey as being very important for preventing occupational disease and illness. The actions most rated very important included:

  • educate people about occupational disease prevention (72%)
  • strengthen workplace protections (61%)

See a full breakdown of these findings.

Next steps

We will combine the responses gathered from the consultations with extensive research, data and evaluations to develop Ontario’s next workplace health and safety strategy. The strategy will be released by March 2021.

Detailed survey results

Select demographics

Respondents’ roles

This chart includes responses to survey question 1: I am answering this survey as a…

MLTSD Health and Safety Inspector


Health and Safety Association representative






Health and safety professional




No responses




Organization size

This chart includes responses to survey question 14: How many people are employed in your organization in Ontario?

1 - 5


6 - 19


20 - 49


50 - 199


200 - 500


Over 500


Responses to ranked questions

Challenges to improving health and safety

This table includes responses to survey question 4: What do you believe are the top three challenges to improving health and safety in your workplace? footnote 1
Challenge% of Respondents
A lack of commitment from leadership to health and safety45
A lack of commitment from workers to health and safety34
Workplace hazards and risks associated with the hazards are not adequately controlled31
It is too hard to keep up with all the legislation and regulations27
Health and safety training is not specific enough to the hazards present at the workplace24
Other (captured in qualitative analysis)22
Workplace hazards and risks associated with the hazards are not identified18
Not enough information on health and safety is provided15
Health and safety information and resources are not easy to understand17
The health and safety training available is not easy to access13
There are no challenges to health and safety at my workplace10

Methods to reduce injuries and illnesses

This table includes responses to survey question 5: Please rate how successful you believe these approaches have been in reducing injuries and illnesses in your workplace (broken down by percentage).
Approaches to reduce workplace injuries and illnessesUnsuccessfulModerately unsuccessfulModerately successfulVery successfulDon’t know / not applicable
Training and education5.77%18.40%41.23%31.53%3.07%
Awareness, communications, and marking campaigns11.66%31.04%35.46%17.91%3.93%
Workplace inspection initiatives12.51%21.59%32.88%29.20%3.80%
Recognition programs and other motivators22.21%31.29%22.21%11.41%12.88%
Legislation and regulations11.17%27.36%34.11%23.93%3.44%

Objectives to improve workplace health and safety

This table includes responses to survey question 8: Please rate how important you feel the following objectives are to improving workplace health and safety (broken down by percentage).
Objectives to improve workplace health and safetyNot importantModerately unimportantModerately importantVery important
Make sure everyone is aware of health and safety rules in the workplace1.47%3.68%14.36%80.49%
Improve the value placed on health and safety in the workplace0.98%3.19%14.49%81.35%
Make sure everyone in the workplace knows where to get health and safety information2.45%7.61%22.70%67.24%
Make sure health and safety information is easy for everyone in the workplace to access1.84%6.26%20.12%71.78%
Use technology and innovation to design new solutions to health and safety challenges5.15%15.09%30.31%49.45%
Support businesses to improve their health and safety practices3.56%7.36%23.56%65.52%

Preventing occupational illnesses

This table includes responses to survey question 10: Occupational illnesses — health problems caused by exposure to workplace health hazards — are the leading cause of work-related deaths each year in Ontario. Please rate how important you feel the following actions are to prevent occupational illnesses (broken down by percentage).
Actions to prevent occupational illnessesNot importantModerately unimportantModerately importantVery important
Improve how we track occupational illnesses and hazardous substances in workplaces2.45%11.29%28.10%58.16%
Strengthen workplace protections2.21%9.20%27.48%61.10%
Educate people about occupational illness prevention1.10%5.98%20.86%72.15%
Establish partnerships (for example, with the health care sector) to help improve how occupational illness is managed3.93%10.31%30.67%55.09%