Canadian law requires employers to provide their employees with the information, instruction, and training needed to maintain a healthy and safe work environment. These measures promote a proactive workplace culture that helps prevent accidents, injuries, and illnesses before they occur.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) is the primary piece of legislation for Ontario’s health and safety standards. It aims to protect workers from workplace hazards by establishing procedures to address workplace hazards and the consequences when these standards are not met.
Workers have rights protected by the Act and all workplace parties (employers, supervisors, and workers) have a direct responsibility for health and safety. The duties carried out by these parties make up the internal responsibility system (IRS), which is the foundation for an effective health and safety program.
Under OHSA, employers have the greatest responsibility to health and safety. Employers must implement policies and practices to promote health and safety in the workplace to “take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker” as stated in the Act.
Health and Safety Audits
OHSA and supporting legislation makes health and safety an integral part of every job. Like other responsibilities at work, maintaining a safe culture requires regular attention.
You can hire health and safety experts like HR Enable to audit your program for OHSA compliance, and to identify organizational strengths and procedures that could be improved. Audits may also include industry specific regulations.
Audits also provide an opportunity to resolve any issues and prepare businesses before inspections are conducted by the Ministry of Labour.
The following actions, when occurring in the workplace, fall into the OHSA definition of workplace violence:
- The exercise of physical force by a person, against a worker, which causes or could cause physical injury.
- An attempt to exercise physical force against a worker, that could cause physical injury.
- Statements or behaviour that a reasonable person would consider a threat to cause physical injury.
All employers need to provide a policy that outlines how they will identify and control the risk of workplace violence, how workers can report workplace violence, how workers can get assistance during incidents of violence, and how the workplace will investigate incidents or complaints. This policy needs to be written and displayed in organizations with five or more employees.
OHSA also requires employers to assess the risks of violence as often as is necessary to ensure the policy is working as intended. Training can aid employees and employers in dealing with workplace violence.
Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Policy
OHSA defines harassment as “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome”. This definition includes sexual harassment, which OHSA defines in a similar way to Ontario’s Human Rights Code.
Similar to workplace violence, employers must implement a policy that educates workers on what constitutes sexual harassment, how to report incidents, and a mechanism on how to report these incidents. A Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Policy must also inform employees what to do if a supervisor or employer is the alleged harasser.
Employer policies on workplace harassment must also ensure that:
- An investigation into all incidents and complaints will be conducted
- Both the allegedly harassed worker and the alleged harasser (if an employee) receive written information on the result of workplace harassment investigations and of the corrective actions that will take place.
- Policy is reviewed as often as necessary, but at least annually, to ensure it functions well.
Work Towards a Healthy and Safe Workplace
Contact HR Enable for further information on OHSA and other legislation that regulates your workplace policies. With years of experience, out team is prepared to help you build a better workplace.