Employers often struggle with the question of who is a
"supervisor" under the Ontario Occupational Health
and Safety Act. The answer to that question is obviously
important because supervisors have legal duties under the OHSA,
violations of which can lead to charges and fines.
The MOL provides, in that guideline, two lists of
"powers and responsibilities that may be exercised or carried
out by a supervisor". The MOL says that the first list
includes powers that are "primary indicators of being in a
supervisory role", and the second list "includes
responsibilities that would generally be carried out on the job
site by a front-line supervisor who interacts directly with
"1. Powers that are primary indicators of being in a
supervisory role include the power to:
hire, fire or discipline,
recommend hiring, firing or discipline,
promote, demote or transfer,
decide a worker's rate of pay,
approve vacation time,
grant leaves of absence, or
enforce procedures established to protect worker health and
2. A person with none of the powers listed above could
still be a supervisor as defined in the OHSA, if he or
she has some of the following responsibilities:
determining the tasks to be done, and by whom,
directing and monitoring how work is performed,
managing available resources such as staff, facilities,
deciding on and arranging for equipment to be used on a job
deciding the make-up of a work crew,
deciding on and scheduling hours of work,
dealing directly with workers' complaints, or
directing staff and other resources to address health and
The MOL guidance goes on to provide examples as well as
summaries of relevant court decisions.
Ontario employers, particularly those in safety-sensitive
businesses, should familiarize themselves with the guideline,
and ensure that all supervisors (1) know that they are
"supervisors" under the OHSA, (2) have taken the
MOL's required basic supervisory safety awareness training, (3)
are fully aware of their duties under the OHSA, and (4) have
received the workplace-specific safety training necessary for them
to comply with their duties under the OHSA.
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