From January 20 to March 13, 2020, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD) conducted a health and safety initiative which focused on workplaces in Ontario’s group homes sector. The purpose was to strengthen health and safety protection for workers, including personal support workers and developmental services workers who provide care for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

This initiative began by focusing on education, outreach and awareness and partnering with the Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA) to provide training and education to employers. The goal was to raise awareness on workplace hazards and help employers comply with the requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations prior to focused inspections.

Beginning February 3, 2020, we conducted a focused inspection blitz in group homes to check that employers were complying with the OHSA. This initiative included all workplaces in the group homes sector such as intensive support residences or supported group living residences.

Our inspectors:

  • conducted 137 field visits with 13 support role activitiesfootnote 1
  • visited 122 workplaces
  • issued 119 orders and requirements, including one stop work order


A large number of workers, including developmental services workers and personal support workers, work in a variety of intensive support residences; supported group living residences and other residential facilities in the group homes sector.

Since group homes are both homes and worksites, they have unique health and safety challenges as they have both home-related hazards and hazards related to the provision of care. Group homes also share the same challenges many community care workplaces have, such as workers who often work alone without direct supervision.

Full report

Workplace inspection initiatives

Inspection initiatives are part of our Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy. We announce to the sector, in advance, that we will be conducting an initiative, although individual workplaces are not notified in advance. The results of the initiative are posted online to inform workplace parties about the inspectors’ findings and to help workplaces sustain compliance beyond the duration of the initiative. Inspectors’ findings may affect the number and level of future inspections of individual workplaces.

Inspectors may also refer employers to health and safety associations for help with compliance and training.

Focus of the initiative

We provided information on the initiative on January 22, 2020, at a webinar co-hosted by the ministry and our partner, the PSHSA. The webinar offered details on what our inspectors would be looking for during the blitz and OHSA requirements for group homes, and gave participants an opportunity to ask questions.

Inspectors focused on:

  • the internal responsibility system (IRS), including engaging senior leadership to strengthen leadership accountability and compliance with their legislated duties under the OHSA
  • workplace violence prevention
  • musculoskeletal disorders
  • exposures to hazardous biological, chemical and physical agents with an enhanced focus on infection prevention and control as well as needle safety

Inspectors took appropriate action if violations were found under the OHSA or its regulations.

This included:

  • writing orders to employers, supervisors and workers to have them comply with legal requirements
  • issuing stop work orders requiring employers to comply before work could continue

Inspection activity summary

Visits to workplaces

  • 137 field visits were conducted
  • 122 different workplaces were visited
  • 119 orders and requirements were issued, including:
    • 117 orders issued for violations under the OHSA and its regulations, including 1 stop work order that was immediately complied with
    • 2 requirements issued to provide an inspector with workplace information
  • an average of 0.98 orders and requirements were issued per workplace visited
  • an average of 0.87 orders and requirements were issued per visit

Most frequently issued orders

Most of the orders issued under the OHSA involved employer duties and were for the following reasons:

  • failure to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers [clause 25 (2)(h)] - 14 orders or 11.3% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative. Of the orders issued under clause 25(2)h, the most common issues were related to eyewash fountains, chemical storage and personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • failure to ensure that equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer are maintained in good condition [clause 25(1)(b)] - 12 orders or 10.08% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • lack of compliance with violence and harassment provisions of the OHSA - 30 orders or 25% of the total orders were written under sections 32.0.1 to 32.0.8 of the OHSA. The most frequently issued orders with respect to preventing workplace violence involved employers:
    • failure to assess the risk of workplace violence that may arise from the nature of the workplace, the type of work or the conditions of work [subsection 32.03 (1)] – 11 orders or 9.24% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • stop work order [clause 57(6)(a)] - 1 order issued during the initiative with respect to the employer’s failure to provide and make readily available safety-engineered needles to a worker that was appropriate for the work. At the time, the employer did have the proper safety-engineered needles in the workplace; however, they were not readily available for use.

The most frequently issued orders under regulations made under the OHSA were written under:

  • Ontario Regulation 297/13: Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training. 12 orders or 10.08 per cent of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative. The most frequently issued orders were employers’ failure to:
    • ensure that a worker who performs work for the employer completes a basic occupational health and safety awareness training program that meets the requirements set out in subsection (3) of O. Reg. 297/13 (six orders or 5.4%)
    • ensure that a supervisor who performs work for the employer completes a basic occupational health and safety awareness training program that meets the requirements set out in subsection (3) of O. Reg. 297/13 (six orders or 5.4%)
  • Reg. 67/93: Health Care and Residential Facilities. 14 orders or 11.76%, the most common topics related to control of infections (preventing exposure to bodily fluids) and musculoskeletal disorders (proper maintenance of slings and lifts) and involved the need for revised measures and procedures. Most of the frequently written orders were written under sections 8 and 9 of the regulation, including the employers’ failure to:
    • review and revise measures and procedures [subsection 9(2)] – six orders or 5.04% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
    • develop, establish and put into effect measures and procedures, in consultation with the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative and upon consideration of their recommendation, for the health and safety of workers [section 8] – three orders or 2.52% of the total orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • Reg. 860: WHMIS: four orders (3.3%) were written with respect to chemical safety and safe use of cleaning agents.
  • O. Reg. 474/07: Needle Safety: two orders (1.6%) were written with respect to providing workers with safety-engineered needles appropriate for the work.


The results of this initiative indicate that workplace parties need to improve compliance with certain aspects of the workplace:

  • Workers continue to be exposed to workplace violence, infectious diseases, needle-stick injuries and musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Workers and supervisors must be provided with basic occupational health and safety awareness training.
  • Workers must be provided with proper workplace violence prevention training and employers must continue to assess the risks of violence taking into account the circumstances specific to the job being performed in group homes settings such as intensive support and supported group living residences.

Conclusion and next steps

Demonstrated leadership and attention by employers to workplace health and safety, appropriate policies, procedures and measures to protect workers are needed to improve the culture of health and safety workplaces in the group home sector.

The orders issued show that some employers are not fully meeting their health and safety responsibilities under the OHSA and its regulations. This includes a failure to provide basic occupational health and safety awareness training for workers and supervisors.

Also, several workplaces did not have the required policies and programs in place related to the prevention of workplace violence.

Employers, supervisors, workers, joint health and safety committees and health and safety representatives must continue to work together to identify and control hazards including workplace violence, musculoskeletal disorders and needle-sticks injuries. Ministry inspectors will continue to pay attention to the effective functioning of the IRS, workplace violence prevention, musculoskeletal disorders and exposures (infection prevention and control) in group homes.

The results of the initiative confirm our need to continue to focus on group homes.

Help for employers

Please contact our health and safety partners for information on training and developing workplace health and safety programs.

Contact the Public Services Health & Safety Association (PSHSA) for resources and training on identifying, preventing and controlling workplace hazards in community care workplaces.

Visit PSHSA landing page for resources specific to this initiative.

Visit Workplace-violence.ca for resources and tools to prevent workplace violence.

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