As a new small business owner, with fewer than 20 workers, you should be aware of the Ontario Ministry of Labour workplace inspection blitzes. Between April 2013 and March 2014, Ministry of Labour inspectors conducted 1,190 workplace inspection blitzes of new small businesses that had registered with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), but had no prior contact with the Ministry.
The focus of the blitzes was to ensure workplace compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations. Additionally, inspectors checked for workplace knowledge of the Internal Responsibility System (IRS) which outlines the responsibilities of employers and workers in maintaining a safe and healthy workplace.
The high amount of orders issued to new small businesses between April 2013 and March 2014 were indicators that small business employers are failing to support, develop and implement a sufficient IRS. More importantly, the orders highlighted a serious lack of awareness and understanding for the OHSA responsibilities of workers, employers and supervisors within these workplaces.
Inspection Blitz Focus
The workplace inspection blitzes, evaluated new small businesses operating within the industrial sector. At these workplaces, inspectors specifically concentrated on compliance with the following:
- the core elements of the IRS were established, implemented and maintained;
- employers had identified and controlled hazards;
- non-compliance with the OHSA and its regulations was being addressed and remedied;
- vulnerable workers were aware their OHSA rights; and
- workers and supervisors were being directed to resources in the health and safety system.
2013-2014 Small Business Inspection Blitz Results
After 1,589 field visits to 1,190 small businesses, 4,014 orders under the OHSA and its regulations were issued. This included 58 stop work orders.
Approximately half of the 4,014 orders were directly related to the establishment, implementation and maintenance of the IRS. Most notably, of the total IRS-related orders issued, an astounding 23% (930) were due to workplaces failing to have programs or policies addressing workplace violence and harassment. At a close second, almost 20% (781) of orders were based on failure of employers to adequately train employees and post OHSA, policies, and programs. Lastly, almost 12% (455) of IRS-related orders related to a failure to establish, maintain, and support a worker health and safety representative and/or a Joint Health and Safety Committee.
The remaining half of the 4,014 orders were issued due to lack of compliance with the OHSA and its regulations. The fact that 9.7% (389) of orders in this category were issued for failure to even post the OHSA at the workplace, could be indicative of the overall failure to abide by it. Employers were commonly found to have failed to:
- Post the OHSA – 9.7% (389)
- Take reasonable precautions to protect workers' health and safety – 6.2% (249)
- Prepare health and safety policy and maintain program – 5% (202)
- Maintain equipment in good condition – 4.3% (171)
- Have worker health and safety representative - 3.7% (150)
- Have a health and safety representative conduct monthly workplace inspections – 3.3% (132)
- Provide information, instruction, and supervision to workers – 3% (120)
- Provide information, instruction on workplace harassment – 2.8% (114)
- Develop and maintain program to implement workplace violence prevention policy – 2.6% (104)
Inspection Blitzes Continue as New Small Businesses Underperform
In recognition of the number of breaches found, the Ministry of Labour has announced that the workplace inspection blitzes will be continued in the 2014-2015 fiscal year. Each industrial inspector will inspect four to eight small businesses, this time with 50 or less workers, that are registered with the WSIB, and have not been previously registered or inspected by the Ministry. Although the inspections will be announced to the industrial sector by the Ministry in advance, individual workplaces will not be identified in advance. There is no kind of blitz like a surprise blitz after all.
In order to properly prepare your small business for the upcoming inspection blitzes, it is important that you review the summary and results of the 2013-2014 Ministry of Labour inspections. You can learn from the shortcomings of the small businesses inspected during the previous years to avoid being issued an order from the Ministry this upcoming term.
Next Steps for Your Small Business
To ensure your new small business is inspection blitz ready for the upcoming 2014-2015 term, it is essential that your workplace has not only established, implemented and maintained an IRS but also that employers have identified and controlled hazards, workers are aware of their OHSA rights, and that overall compliance with OSHA and its regulations are abided by. As the results of last year indicate, any deficiencies within these areas are grounds for an order which could have easily been avoided.
For more information on your obligations as a business owner not only under the OHSA, but also under the Employment Standards Act, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act., and Workplace Safety and Insurance Act contact a representative at Morisawa De Koven Professional Corporation.
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.