Canada: Be Prepared To Pay: Massive Increases To Fines Under The OHSA And Other Important Changes Coming

Last Updated: December 8 2017
Article by Ryan Conlin and Jeremy Schwartz

The Ontario Government has made a number of significant changes to labour and employment legislation over the last few months. Many of these changes have received significant public attention such as the increase to minimum wage and the expansion of WSIB entitlement for mental stress claims. However, these are not the only changes on the horizon.

The government has proposed Bill 177, known as An Act to implement Budget measures and to enact and amend various statutes. This vaguely titled legislation includes a number of important changes to OHS law in Ontario.

Massive Increase to the Maximum Fines Under the OHSA

Under the current law, the maximum fine for a corporation under the OHSA is $500,000 and $25,000 for an individual. The government proposes to triple the maximum fines against corporations to $1.5 million dollars and quadruple the maximum fine against individuals to $100,000. This is the first increase to the maximum fines under the OHSA in many years, and thus it is not entirely surprising that the government has headed in this direction.

The maximum fines are reserved for what is often referred to as the "worst case, worst offender" situations. The maximum fine would generally be imposed against defendants with serious prior records or in particularly egregious cases.

However, one can expect that Crown Prosecutors will rely on these increases, assuming they pass as drafted, to seek significant increases to the range of fines imposed against defendants. We anticipate that fines will go up significantly for defendants if these amendments become law, which means that OHSA compliance will be even more business critical.

It should be noted that the maximum jail sentence for an individual will remain the same, at one year per count.

Important Change to the Limitation Period for Prosecutions

The current limitation period for prosecutions is 1 year from the date of the accident or contravention, and it is not uncommon for the Ministry of Labour to lay charges just as the limitation period is about to expire. Bill 177 proposes to revise that provision to instead say that the limitation period expires one year from the date of the contravention or one year from the day upon which an inspector becomes aware of the alleged offence (whichever comes later).

This would be an important change, as it would mean the limitation period does not run until an Inspector becomes aware of a contravention. It is our view that this amendment is in direct response to the decision of Ontario Court of Justice in R. v. Corporation (City of Guelph) et al., where charges against two individuals were dismissed when the wall of a municipal building collapsed five years after the construction project was completed. The Court found that alleged provision by the architect and the engineer of negligent or incompetent advice occurred years before the wall collapsed and thus the limitation period applied to the individual defendants. The amendment to the limitation period would likely have led to a different result in that case.

Another situation where this amendment would apply is when a contravention is not brought to the attention of the Ministry of Labour and ultimately comes to the attention of an Inspector years later. This amendment allows for prosecution of such older offences.

Inspectors Bound to Follow Ministry Directives

The Bill proposes to amend the OHSA to allow the Ministry to establish written directives for use by inspectors respecting the interpretation, administration and enforcement of the Act and the regulations, and the Act would require Inspectors to follow these directives.

This is an interesting amendment which we believe is likely being enacted to bring some consistency to legal issues which have been the subject of different interpretations by individual Inspectors. For example, it has been our experience that different Inspectors have different interpretations of the "Constructor" and "Project" definitions under the Act. In practice, this has meant that some Inspectors have treated project owners as "Constructors" even where the Owner has hired a general contractor. The interpretation of the "critical injury" definition by various Inspectors has also been a controversial issue in our experience.

The proposed legislation would require the directives to be consistent with the OHSA. It will be an interesting issue to see how Courts and Tribunals treat the written directives in terms of interpreting the legislation and regulations. It is unlikely that a Court would consider itself bound by the directives, particularly if the Court determines that the directive is inconsistent with the OHSA. However, there is no question that directives will likely have a significant impact on how the OHSA is interpreted in the future.

Expanded Reporting Obligations

The Bill proposes to amend the OHSA to require an employer to notify the Ministry of Labour if a joint health and safety committee or a health and safety representative has identified potential structural inadequacies of a workplace as a hazard to workers. This amendment is likely in response to the tragic collapse of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake.

The Bill also proposes to amend the OHSA to make some changes to the specific reporting obligations involving certain types of accidents at construction projects and mines. More interestingly, the Ministry would be given the power to impose additional reporting obligations by regulation. The specifics of these other reporting obligations have not yet been made clear.

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.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

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 or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions