Canada: What Do The Amendments To The "Occupational Health And Safety Act" Mean For You?

Last Updated: December 2 2011
Article by Jennifer L. Costin and Debi Sanderson (Human Resources Consultant)

The Ontario Legislature recently passed Bill 168, causing significant amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act in regards to violence and harassment in the workplace. The bill received royal assent on December 15, 2009 and came into full force and effect in Ontario of June 15, 2010.

The highlights of the amendments include:

  • Workplace violence and workplace harassment have now been defined and included in the Act. Workplace violence is "a threat, an attempt or an exercise of physical force" and workplace harassment is "vexatious comments or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome". This definition of harassment goes above and beyond what is included in the Ontario Human Rights Code, which requires harassment to be linked to an enumerated ground under the Code (i.e. race, disability, gender, age, etc.).
  • Employers are now required to prepare policies with respect to workplace violence and workplace harassment and to review those policies at least annually.
  • Employers are now required to assess the risks of workplace violence and to report the results of that assessment to the joint health and safety committee or to a health and safety representative (where there is no committee or representative, the results must be reported to the workers). The risks must be reassessed as often as is necessary to protect workers from workplace violence.
  • Employers are now required to develop a program to implement the workplace violence policy. The program must include measures to control risks of workplace violence identified in the risk assessment, to summon immediate assistance when workplace violence occurs and for workers to report incidents of workplace violence. The program must also set out how the employer will deal with incidents and complaints of workplace violence.
  • Employers are now required to develop a program to implement the workplace harassment policy, which program must include measures for workers to report incidents of workplace harassment and set out how the employer will deal with incidents and complaints of workplace harassment.
  • If an employer is aware or ought to be aware that domestic violence that is likely to expose a worker to physical injury may occur in the workplace, the employer must take every reasonable precaution to protect the worker.
  • Employers must now provide a worker with information and instruction on the contents of the workplace violence and workplace harassment policies and programs.
  • A worker may now refuse to work in situations where workplace violence is likely to endanger the worker.
  • The employer and the supervisor have a duty, in certain circumstances, to provide a worker with information (including personal information) about the risk of workplace violence from a person with a history of violent behaviour. The employer and the supervisor shall not disclose more personal information than is reasonably necessary.

If your organization has not already done so, it must take steps to comply with the amendments prior to June 15, 2010. Those steps must include:

1. Creating policies with respect to workplace violence and workplace harassment. If your organization has a human rights harassment and discrimination policy, that should still be kept in place, however the current amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act are significantly different than those contained in the Human Rights Code and as such, separate policies must be instituted or current policies need to be dramatically changed to incorporate the amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act - 2 -

2. An assessment needs to be conducted in the workplace to assess the risks of workplace violence and a reporting needs to be done of the results of that assessment and communicated to the appropriate individual(s). The assessment can be done by somebody from your organization or somebody retained from outside of your organization with particular expertise in the area.

3. Programs for both workplace violence and workplace harassment need to be created and implemented.

These programs must include:

  1. a plan to educate new and existing employees about the employer's policies with respect to workplace violence and workplace harassment;
  2. specific steps and procedures the employer will take to control the risks identified in the assessment;
  3. specific steps and procedures employees should follow to call for help as soon as violence occurs, is likely to occur, or is threatened;
  4. the process employees should follow to report any incidents of violence or threats of violence to the employer;
  5. an explanation of how reports of violence or threats of violence will be investigated and acted upon.

4. You need to provide your workers with information and instruction on the contents of your workplace violence and harassment policies and programs.

5. Understand the changes being made to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Visit

What are some additional questions that employers may have?

What happens if my organization does not comply?

Inspectors from the Ministry of Labour can investigate your workplace and issue orders requiring compliance. Further, the Ministry of Labour can prosecute your organization or individuals within your organization if steps have not been or are not being taken to comply with the legislation. Monetary fines are an eventual result.

Must our policies be in writing?

If you have more than five employees, your policies must be in writing and posted in a conspicuous place in the workplace. If you have five or fewer employees, the policy does not have to be in writing or posted, unless an inspector orders otherwise. However, it is our suggestion that the policies always be in writing and posted in order to clearly share the information with your staff and avoid any confusion.

Must the assessment be in writing?

No, although it will be the easier to prove to the Ministry of Labour that it was properly done and considered all relevant factors, if you can present it in written form.

Hasn't there always been a right for a worker to refuse to work in an unsafe work condition?

Mostly, yes, however this was previously limited to where a worker has reason to believe that:

  • any equipment, machine, device or thing the worker is to use or operate is likely to endanger himself, herself or another worker;
  • the physical condition of the workplace or the part thereof in which he or she works or is to work is likely to endanger himself or herself; or
  • any equipment, machine, device or a thing he or she is to use or operate or the physical condition of the workplace or the part thereof in which he or she works or is to work is in contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Act or its regulations and such contravention is likely to endanger himself, herself or another worker.

Added to this, is where a worker has reason to believe that "workplace violence is likely to endanger himself or herself".

Can a worker refuse to work where workplace harassment is present? No. The amendments only include where workplace violence is likely to endanger the employee.

We already have a system in place to investigate human rights harassment or discrimination claims. Can we use that same investigation procedure in our workplace violence and harassment program?

Yes, as long as your procedure for investigating human rights related discrimination and harassment is proper and is sufficient to address the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Are only employees covered or independent contractors also caught?

It is likely that independent contractors and workers of subcontractors on construction sites will also be covered in the term "workers" as it applies to your organization's duties. The term "workers" has a much broader definition than does "employees" and likely covers your own employees, your independent contractors and employees of your subcontractors.

Does workplace violence and workplace harassment cover only acts or omissions that are done during working hours at the organization's location?

No, the broad definition will likely be used, covering company social functions outside of regular business hours, work related activities occurring at locations other than the workplace, etc.

Need assistance?

If you require assistance on creating policies, conducting assessments, creating and implementing programs and informing and training your employees on workplace violence and workplace harassment in order to comply with the changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, we would be pleased to assist you.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Jennifer L. Costin
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.