Occupational health and safety inspections and investigations
What to expect when a health and safety inspector from the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development visits your workplace, their powers and what to do if you disagree with their decision.
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Our inspectors conduct proactive visits to:
- raise awareness of known workplace hazards
- advise workplace parties of their rights, duties and responsibilities
- promote the internal responsibility system
- provide compliance assistance
- check that workplaces are following occupational health and safety legislation
They conduct reactive visits in response to a:
- critical injury
- work refusal
- occupational illness
- other health and safety related event in the workplace
Proactive workplace visits are typically unannounced.
When inspectors arrive at workplaces, they may ask to speak with:
- a member of management, if available
- the workplace’s health and safety contact person
The inspector may also ask to see a worker health and safety representative or a joint health and safety committee member.
The inspector may check that all documentation required under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) is in place and displayed in an area accessible by all workers. These documents include:
- the written occupational health and safety policy
- the workplace violence and harassment policy
- the health and safety awareness poster
- a copy of the OHSA
The inspector may also request to see other documentation as required by law (for example, proof of training). After this, the inspector may examine the workplace to determine if workplace parties are complying with the OHSA and its regulations.
Health and safety inspection initiatives
Throughout the year, we conduct health and safety inspection initiatives that focus on specific hazards, sectors or health and safety topics.
Before inspection initiatives start, we work with health and safety associations to raise awareness and provide resources, training and education to workplace parties (for example, employers, labour associations and workers) on the initiative’s focus.
During an initiative, an inspector may focus on initiative-related issues as well as general compliance with the OHSA.
Employers can prepare for initiatives by:
- consulting with their health and safety associations for specific information and services
- reviewing our initiative-related materials and checking to see whether their workplace is in compliance
- discussing health and safety issues with their joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative
Once we are notified, we will assign an inspector who will respond to the report.
No one should change or disturb the accident scene before an inspector gives permission to do so.
The inspector may:
- view the incident location
- take photographs and measurements
- interview witnesses, co-workers, supervisors, employers and anyone else who might have relevant information (for example, equipment manufacturers)
- examine and test the equipment involved
The inspector may identify hazards and issue orders, which the workplace parties must address to prevent this type of incident from happening again.
Once the investigation is complete, the inspector may recommend that charges be laid when there has been a violation of the OHSA related to a worker fatality or injury.
Inspectors also visit workplaces in response to complaints and work refusals.
Role of inspectors
Inspectors enforce the OHSA and its regulations. They may be accompanied by other specialists, such as engineers, hygienists, doctors, ergonomists, infection control consultants, radiation experts and a psychologist.
Powers of an inspector
Inspectors have many legal powers to enforce compliance with the OHSA to support worker health and safety.
An inspector may enter any workplace without a warrant or notice for an inspection.
The law requires you to allow inspectors entry into a workplace so they can conduct an inspection.
Once an inspector has begun a workplace inspection, they can:
- question any person
- handle, use or test any equipment, machinery, material or agent in the workplace and take away samples
- look at any documents or records and take them from the workplace in order to make copies
- take photographs and measurements
To review all the powers of an inspector, please read Part VIII of the Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
All new inspectors complete a nine-month program of classroom and field training with an experienced inspector.
They also receive training on health and safety issues in specific sectors.
Suspected human trafficking
Inspectors are trained to recognize signs of human trafficking and may refer concerns to the appropriate authorities. If you or anyone you know might be at risk of human trafficking, call the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline at
Orders, tickets and prosecutions
To make sure workplace parties follow the law, inspectors may issue:
- tickets for fines
Orders and tickets
“Compliance orders” are issued when they identify violations of the law. Employers must address those violations.
Where there is an immediate risk of worker injury, an inspector will issue a “stop work” order to stop work until the hazard is addressed.
The inspector will also give the employer or constructor a Notice of Compliance form along with the orders.
The employer or constructor must:
- complete the Notice of Compliance form
- have either a member of the joint health and safety committee or a health and safety representative indicate on the form whether or not they agree that the employer or constructor has complied with the orders
- send the completed form to the inspector whose address will be on the form
At the end of the field visit, the inspector will give the employer a written field visit report that summarizes their findings.
The employer must post a copy of the report in the workplace and give a copy to the health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee.
If a workplace does not follow an inspector’s orders, charges may be laid.
Get help following an inspection
An easy and simple way for businesses to interact with us is through our Health and Safety Contact Centre. We can provide information about:
- compliance with the OHSA, including where to find information that is relevant to your workplace
- a health and safety inspection, including information on a specific order that was issued or an inspection report you received
The contact information for our Health and Safety Contact Centre can also be found at the bottom of the workplace visit report you received. A manager will contact you to help resolve any concerns.
Appeal an inspector’s order
Under the OHSA, any employer, constructor, licensee, owner, worker or trade union who is affected by the decision of an inspector may appeal.
To file an appeal, contact the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) within 30 days of the order’s issue date.
During the appeal, the OLRB:
- has the power to suspend the order until a decision on the appeal is made
- can also decide to uphold the order, rescind it or issue a new one