What Every Employer in Ontario Needs to Know – Part 2

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Every employer in the province of Ontario has numerous obligations in relation to employment law matters. The following is a summary of some of the more salient ones.

Please note this paper addresses provincially (as opposed to federally) regulated employers with non-unionized staffs. Additional considerations will apply to union situations. The commentary below is intended as a general guide. Specific advice should be obtained to address specific situations.

This is Part 2 of five parts. Please check back regularly for further installments.

(This memorandum is effective at January, 2013)

2. Occupational Health and Safety Act (Ontario)

The main purpose of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Ontario) (OHSA) is to protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job. It sets out duties for all workplace parties and rights for workers. It establishes procedures for dealing with workplace hazards and provides for enforcement of the law where compliance has not been achieved voluntarily.

The OHSA assigns a mixture of general and specific duties to employers and provides for other duties to be prescribed by regulation. The general duties require an employer to:
• take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of workers;
• ensure that equipment, materials and protective equipment are maintained in good condition; and
• provide information, instruction and supervision to protect worker health and safety.

Specifically, under the OHSA, employers are required to:

• Post a copy of the OHSA in their workplace.
The OHSA is available online at:

• Post the Poster “Health & Safety at Work – Prevention Starts Here”
Under the OHSA, employers are also required to post any explanatory material prepared by the Ministry, which includes this “Health & Safety at Work – Prevention Starts Here” poster. The poster summarizes workers’ health and safety rights and responsibilities and the responsibilities of employers and supervisors. It also reminds employers that they must not take action against workers for following the Act or for raising workplace health and safety concerns, and seeking enforcement of the OHSA. The poster encourages workers to get involved in health and safety matters and explains when and why to contact the Ministry of Labour. The poster is available online in pdf format.

• Prepare and Review a Health and Safety Policy; Develop and Maintain a Program to Implement that Policy
The OHSA also requires employers who have more than 5 employees to prepare and review, at least once a year, a written occupational health and safety policy, and to develop and maintain a program to implement that policy. The policy must be posted in the workplace. Once the policy is adopted, an employer should also implement a program to implement the policy. This program will vary, depending upon the hazards encountered in a particular workplace.

• Prepare and Review a Workplace Violence and Workplace Harassment Policy; Develop and Maintain a Program to Implement that Policy
The OHSA also requires employers to prepare and review, at least once a year, workplace violence and workplace harassment policies, and to develop and maintain programs to implement those policies. These policies must be in writing and posted in the workplace except for workplaces with 5 or fewer regularly employed workers, unless ordered by an inspector.

We can assist in the development of an appropriate Workplace Violence and Workplace Harassment Policy as well as the other policies mentioned in this paper.

Note: Health and Safety Representative:
Workplaces with 5 or fewer workers are exempt from the requirements of the Act which regulate joint health and safety committees, and from the requirement for a health and safety representative.

About the Author
Libby Gillman is, by training, an experienced corporate and commercial lawyer with particular expertise in financial institution incorporation and regulation, banking law and regulation, sophisticated and innovative payment systems, electronic banking products, emerging technology-based financial and other products and services, electronic commerce including Internet law, and legal issues of privacy and security on the Internet.