Overview

During a health and safety initiative focusing on new small businesses from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019, Ministry of Labour inspectors:

  • conducted 4,845 field visits with 291 support role activities
  • visited 3,942 workplaces
  • issued 13,907 orders and requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations, including 184 stop work orders

Inspectors checked that employers were complying with the OHSA and its regulations including but not limited to:

  • health and safety policy and a program to implement the policy
  • workplace violence and harassment policies and programs
  • health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee
  • posting requirements (for example, OHSA, Health and Safety at Work poster)
  • mandatory health and safety awareness training (O. Reg. 297/13).

This included checking that employers were protecting workers by taking suitable action to identify and control hazards.

The goals of this industrial health and safety initiative were to:

  • raise awareness of key health and safety hazards at small business workplaces
  • verify that requirements were being met
  • increase workplace compliance with the law
  • prevent injuries and illness that could arise from unsafe work practices
  • provide help for employers on workplace safety

Background

In Ontario, small businesses represent 95% of all employers. They employ 28% of Ontario’s workers, many of whom may be vulnerable workers. Small businesses have been identified as a priority in the Healthy and Safe Ontario Workplaces Strategy.

The purpose of the year-long initiative was to promote and enforce the internal responsibility system (IRS) at new small businesses that have never had contact with the Ministry of Labour.

The workplace visits:

  • addressed administrative requirements of the OHSA
  • included a physical inspection of the workplace
  • were conducted in addition to regular workplace visits in which inspectors routinely enforce the IRS

Full report

Ministry of Labour inspectors visited small businesses across Ontario. They focused on small businesses:

  • with 50 or less workers
  • newly registered with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)
  • that had no prior contact with the Ministry of Labour

Inspectors visited small business from all industrial sectors.

Workplace inspection initiatives

Inspection initiatives are part of our Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy. We publicly announce to the sector(s), in advance, that we will be doing an initiative, although individual workplaces are not notified in advance.

The results of the initiative are posted online. 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.

Initiative focus

Inspectors visited small businesses from all diverse industrial sectors, including the following:

  • retail
  • restaurants
  • industrial services
  • food, beverage, and tobacco
  • wholesalers
  • wood and metal fabrication

Inspectors checked that:

  • employers had established, implemented and maintained the following elements of the IRS:
    • posting requirements (for example, OHSA, Health and Safety at Work poster, etc.)
    • a health and safety policy, as well as a program to implement the policy
    • a health and safety representative and/or joint health and safety committee, where required
  • employees had taken a mandatory basic occupational health and safety awareness training program
  • employers had identified and controlled hazards
  • non-compliance with the OHSA and its regulations were being addressed and remedied
  • vulnerable workers were aware of their OHSA rights

Inspectors took suitable action if violations were found under the OHSA or its regulations. This included:

  • writing orders to employers, supervisors and workers so they comply with legal requirements
  • issuing stop work orders requiring employers to comply with legal requirements before work could continue
  • providing resource information to support compliance

Inspection activity summary

This is a summary of the number of visits to workplaces and orders issued:

  • 4,845 field visits with 291 support role activities
  • 3,942 workplaces visited
  • 13,907 orders and requirements issued
  • 13,781 orders issued for violations under the OHSA and its regulations, including 184 stop work orders
  • 126 requirements issued to provide an inspector with workplace information
  • an average of 3.53 orders and requirements issued per workplace visited
  • an average of 2.87 orders and requirements issued per field visit

Order analysis

During the initiative, 8,276 orders and requirements were issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). This represented 60% of the total orders and requirements issued.  

The most frequently issued OHSA orders involved employers’ failure to:

  • post, in the workplace, a copy of the OHSA and any explanatory material prepared by the Ministry of Labour, both in English and in the majority language of the workplace, outlining the rights, responsibilities and duties of workers [s. 25(2)(i)] — 1,734 orders or 12.5% of the total orders and requirements
  • prepare and review, at least annually, a written occupational health and safety policy, and develop and maintain a program to implement that policy [s. 25(2)(j)] — 713 orders or 5.1% of the total orders and requirements
  • have a worker health and safety representative at the workplace [s. 8(1)] — 577 orders or 4.1% of the total orders and requirements
  • make sure equipment, materials and protective devices they provided are maintained in good condition [s. 25(1)(b)] — 554 orders or 4.0% of the total orders and requirements
  • take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers [s. 25(2)(h)] — 342 orders or 2.5% of the total orders and requirements
  • ensure that a health and safety representative inspects the physical condition of the workplace at least once a month [s. 8(6)] — 272 orders or 2.0% of the total orders and requirements

A total of 2,707 orders were issued under the OHSA provisions for workplace violence and harassment (Part III.0.1). This represented almost 19.5% of all the orders and requirements issued.

The top three most frequently issued orders involving workplace violence and harassment were due to employers’ failure to:

  • develop and maintain a written program to implement the harassment policy [s. 32.0.6(1)] — 367 orders or 2.6% of the total orders and requirements issued
  • prepare a workplace violence policy [s. 32.0.1(1)(a)] — 358 orders or 2.6%
  • prepare a workplace harassment policy [s. 32.0.1(1)(b)] — 349 orders or 2.5%

A total of 2,605 orders were issued under Regulation 851: Industrial Establishments. This represented almost 19% of all the orders and requirements issued.

The top three most frequently issued orders were due to employers’ failure to: 

  • ensure a lifting device was examined by a competent person to determine its capability of handling the maximum load, as rated, and that a permanent record was being kept and signed by the person doing the examination [s. 51(1)(b)] — 402 orders or 2.9% of all the orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • provide an eyewash fountain where a worker was exposed to a potential eye injury due to contact with a biological or chemical substance [s. 124] — 223 orders or 1.6%
  • ensure that machinery, equipment or material that may tip or fall and endanger any worker shall be secured against tipping or falling [s. 46] — 222 orders or 1.6%

A total of 2,325 orders were issued under O. Reg. 297/13: Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training. This represented almost 17% of the total orders and requirements issued.

Almost all of these awareness and training orders were issued for employers’ failure to:

  • ensure workers completed a basic occupational health and safety awareness training program [s. 1(1)] — 1,225 orders or 8.8% of all the orders and requirements issued during the initiative
  • ensure supervisors completed a basic occupational health and safety awareness training program [s. 2(1)] — 1,035 orders or 7.4%

Sector analysis

Inspectors visited workplaces in various sectors.

The top sectors ranked by orders and requirements issued
Sector Workplaces visited Field visits Support role activities Orders and requirements issued Stop work orders issued
Retail 1,174 1,409 56 4,063 53
Restaurants 425 557 17 1,651 12
Industrial services 419 471 27 1,018 23
Wood and metal fabrication 185 241 41 972 25
Food, beverage and tobacco 207 272 21 858 5
Wholesalers 194 261 17 850 18
Automotive 104 131 15 545 12
Tourism, hospitality and recreational services 131 186 10 501 3
Vehicle sales and service 71 87 12 379 14

The three industrial sectors with the highest rate of orders per workplace were:

  • vehicle sales and services (4.32 orders and requirements per workplace)
  • automotive (4.14 orders and requirements per workplaces)
  • wood and metal fabrication (4 orders and requirements per workplace)

The two industrial sectors with the highest rate of stop work orders per total number of orders were:

  • logging and sawmills (10% of the orders and requirements were stop work orders)
  • vehicle sales and services (3.7%)

Observations

The majority of the orders issued reflect employers’ failure to support, develop and implement a self-reliant internal responsibility system (IRS).

The orders issued show a general lack of awareness and understanding of employers’ health and safety responsibilities under the OHSA and its regulations. This includes the failure to complete mandatory postings, provide basic occupational health and safety awareness training to workers and supervisors, have a required health and safety policy and have the necessary health and safety representative at the workplace.

Conclusion and next steps

The findings indicate the IRS must remain a core focus of every ministry inspection. Employers, supervisors, workers, health and safety representatives and joint health and safety committees must continue to work together to identify and control hazards at workplaces.

Ministry inspectors will continue to focus on hazards related to safe work practices and compliance with the OHSA and its regulations. They will also direct small business employers to:

The ministry, its health and safety association partners and the WSIB will continue to raise awareness among small businesses of their OHSA obligations by working with business organizations such as Chambers of Commerce and industry associations.

Help for employers

Please contact our health and safety partners for more information on workplace safety.

Updated: June 22, 2021
Published: August 02, 2019