Overview

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), small business employers have many of the same duties as any other employer, including the following:

  • to do everything they reasonably can to protect their workers in each situation
  • to inform, instruct and supervise workers to protect their health and safety
  • to make sure that every worker and supervisor takes the required training, including basic occupational health and safety awareness training, and keep records of that training

Put up health and safety posters

To make sure workers know their rights under the OHSA, workplaces in Ontario must put up posters and other information.

All workplaces

If your workplace is covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, you must put up a:

This applies, even if you have fewer than 6 workers, but some requirements depend on the size of the workplace.

Workplaces with 6 or more workers

If you regularly employ 6 or more workers, you must also put up:

  • a health and safety policy
  • a workplace violence prevention policy
  • a workplace harassment prevention policy

Most workplaces with 6 to 19 workers must have a health and safety representative, and should post their name.

Workplaces with 20 or more workers

Almost all workplaces that regularly employ 20 or more workers are required to have a joint health and safety committee, and to put up the names and work locations of the committee members.

Other posters to put up

You may be required to put up other posters about employment standards and workplace injuries. Find out what other posters you may have to put up by law.

Write and maintain workplace policies

Step 1: Develop the policies

If you regularly employ 6 or more workers you must write and post health and safety, violence and harassment policies, and make them available to your workers.

If you regularly employ 5 or less workers you do not have to put the policies in writing, unless you're ordered to by a Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development inspector.

Learn how to prepare a:

Step 2: Create a program to implement the policies

Create and maintain a program to implement the policies.

Step 3: Review the policies annually

These policies are your commitment to keeping your workers safe in the workplace and you must review them at least once a year.

Offer mandatory health and safety awareness training

By law, all workers and supervisors must take basic occupational health and safety awareness training. This helps them to understand their health and safety rights and meet their responsibilities.

Training resources

From the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (free)

You can use a workbook or e-learning module for workers or supervisors.

If you want to develop your own training

Use the training program assessments for workers or supervisors to determine if your programs meet the legal requirements under Ontario Regulation 297/13 - Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training.

After the training is completed, test your employees with our knowledge check for workers and supervisors.

Keep records of the training

By law, you must:

  • keep a record of training completed by your workers and supervisors (you can use our free record keeping template)
  • provide them with a proof of completion (for example, a signed statement or a certificate of completion)

Teach workers how to safely do their jobs

To teach your workers how to do their jobs safely, you must provide:

  • supervision
  • information and training about:
    • safe work policies
    • hazards in the workplace
    • measures and procedures specific to your workplace and the worker's duties

This is especially important for new and young workers, who are more likely to be injured during their first month on the job than at any other time.

Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)

WHMIS is a Canada-wide system of laws put in place to:

  • help reduce workplace injuries and illnesses
  • help employers and workers learn about hazardous products or chemicals used at work

Under WHMIS, information on hazardous products must be delivered in 3 ways:

  1. worker education programs
  2. labels on the containers of hazardous products with detailed hazard and precautionary information
  3. safety data sheets

Learn more about WHMIS.

Select a health and safety representative or create a joint health and safety committee

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, workers and employers must work together to keep the workplace healthy and safe.

One way to do this is by working with your workplace health and safety representative, or with your joint health and safety committee. They are responsible for identifying potential health and safety problems and bringing them to your (the employer's) attention. They can also make recommendations on improving health and safety in workplace.

If you employ 6 to 19 workers

If you regularly employ 6 to 19 workers, you typically must have a worker health and safety representative. The representative is selected by:

  • the union, if the workplace is unionized
  • workers at the workplace who are not managers or supervisors

Training

Training is optional for health and safety representatives, but training programs are available to help them understand their duties.

Eligible small businesses can be reimbursed for health and safety representative training through Ontario’s Small Business Health and Safety Training Program. The program will cover:

  • course registration costs for the representative
  • $150 towards the representative’s training time

To be reimbursed, eligible small businesses must:

Small businesses can apply for reimbursement through the Small Business Health and Safety Training Program starting in Fall 2021. Check back here and on the Workplace Safety and Prevention Services website for updates.

If you employ 20 or more workers

Almost all workplaces that have 20 or more regularly employed workers must have a joint health and safety committee (JHSC). This committee includes worker and employer representatives.

Certification

At least one worker representative and one management representative on the JHSC must be certified. To do that they must take a 2-part training program, approved by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development's Chief Prevention Officer.

Find an approved training provider.

Use our health and safety checklist

To make sure you are following the Occupational Health and Safety Act, you can use our health and safety checklist. Consider completing it with your health and safety representative or joint health and committee members.

Download the checklist to your device and open it using the latest version of Adobe Reader.

What to expect during an inspection

Every day Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development inspectors visit workplaces for occupational health and safety inspections and investigations. Learn more about what you can expect.

Report a workplace incident

By law, you must notify certain people, within specific timeframes, if there is an incident in your workplace such as a death, injury or occupational illness.

Learn more about who you need to notify.

Your other duties

As an employer you have other responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). For example, you must make sure the equipment, materials and protective devices you provide are in good condition.

Depending on your type of business you may also need to:

  • make sure your workers meet sector-specific minimum age requirements
  • comply with the requirements in specific regulations, such as the regulations for construction, industrial, mining or health care sectors

Read the guide to the OHSA for more information about the duties of employers, supervisors, workers and others.

Get help making your workplace safe

Many of Ontario's health and safety organizations offer sector specific advice, services and training. Some services are free. Others have a fee. Contact:

Definition of a supervisor

A supervisor is anyone who has charge of a workplace or authority over a worker, whether or not they have the word "supervisor" in their job title.

For example, depending on their work responsibilities someone can be a supervisor under the Occupational Health and Safety Act if they are a:

  • business owner
  • keys holder
  • senior chef
  • accountant

As the employer, you are responsible for making sure a supervisor is qualified and knowledgeable about health and safety. Read the Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act to learn more about the requirements and duties of a supervisor under the law.

Updated: August 27, 2021
Published: March 22, 2019