Canada: Are You Ready For Your New And Young Workers Inspection Blitz - Summer 2015

Every year, the Ontario Ministry of Labour ("MOL") conducts inspections of industry segments as part of sector-specific enforcement initiatives. These Inspection Blitzes involve unannounced attendances at construction sites and industrial facilities, including retail outlets and offices. MOL inspectors check to ensure there is compliance with the Occupational Health & Safety Act (the "Act") and its regulations. If deficiencies are identified, Orders can be issued and charges can be laid. There is a zero tolerance standard for any contraventions that the inspectors identify.

Between May and August 2014, the MOL conducted an enforcement blitz in the industrial sector with respect to new and young workers. This was timed to coincide with the start of summer employment because statistics indicate that new workers, including young workers under the age of 25, are three times more likely to be injured during the first three months at work than experienced workers.

The 2014 blitz focused on the following sectors: service; manufacturing; farming operations; tourism/hospitality; logging; municipalities (parks and recreation facilities, camps, etc); transportation; and landscaping. Over 2500 visits were made to 2049 workplaces and 7941 Orders were issued. The top most frequently issued Orders included (i) employers' failure to assess their workplace for violence and have a workplace violence and harassment policy in place; (ii) their failure to post a copy of the Act in the workplace; (iii) their failure to maintain equipment in good condition; and (iv) their failure to perform mandatory basic awareness training.

With the upcoming summer work season, the MOL has announced that it again will be conducting enforcement blitzes at Industrial Establishments with a focus on young and new workers. The 2015/2016 Blitz schedule can be found on the MOL website.

To help your business prepare, we set out below a general overview of the obligations of employers and supervisors, as well as some practical tips.

Employers' Obligations

Employers are those who directly hire others to perform work, as well as those who engage the services of a subcontractor. Generally speaking, employers must ensure that:

  • Workers have completed basic Occupational Health & Safety awareness training;
  • Equipment, materials and protective devices are provided, maintained in good condition, and used as required by law;
  • Workplace health and safety policies, programs, measures and procedures are kept current and followed;
  • Workers are provided with ongoing up-to-date information, instruction and supervision;
  • Hazards in the workplace are identified and workers and their supervisors are made aware of them;
  • They assist, respond to and cooperate with health and safety committees or representatives as required by law;
  • They prepare and implement a workplace violence and harassment policy if there are more than five workers regularly employed at the workplace; and
  • They comply with sector-specific minimum age requirements.

Supervisors' Obligations

Supervisors include those who have charge of a workplace or authority over a worker. Supervisors can include direct front line supervisors all the way up to executives with operational control over an important aspect of the business. As a general rule, supervisors must ensure that:

  • Workers perform their work in compliance with the Act and its regulations;
  • Equipment, protective devices or clothing required by the employer or by the Act is used and/or worn by workers;
  • Workers are advised of any potential or actual health or safety dangers at the workplace; and
  • Workers are provided with written measures and procedures where required by the regulations.

In addition, both employers and supervisors are obligated to take all reasonable precautions to ensure the protection of workers.

Keeping your Business Compliant

You can help prepare your business for the arrival of new and summer workers by taking the five following steps.

1. Prepare an introduction package for new workers that sets out prescribed basic occupational health and safety awareness training, as well as the company's policies, procedures and practices. Follow up by ensuring that the new worker has actually reviewed the policy and understood it (e.g. a test).

2. Assign each new worker to a more experienced senior worker/mentor who works in the same area. Arrange an introductory meeting between them and mandate they have further regular meetings throughout the summer.

3. Introduce new workers to the company's Health and Safety Manager, Joint Health and Safety Committee members or Health and Safety Representative, and outline the role of each.

4. Require supervisors to periodically take young workers on health and safety inspections to check for hazards and unsafe work practices.

5. Monitor the young workers' compliance with the company's policies and procedures, and take appropriate steps as and where warranted.

In addition, make sure that proper records are kept of each of these steps so that when an inspector knocks on the door during a blitz, you can show him or her that your business has taken real and concrete steps to protect the health and safety of your new and young workers.

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.

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Cynthia R. C. Sefton
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