Ontario's Ministry of Labour ("MOL") will be tasked with enforcing occupational health and safety awareness training which is mandatory for all workers and supervisors in the province beginning July 1, 2014. The requirements are established in Ontario Regulation 297/13, Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training, a new regulation pursuant to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the "OHSA").

The mandatory training, which contains a number of detailed elements, was one of the key recommendations made by an Expert Advisory Panel established following a scaffolding collapse at a high-rise construction site, which resulted in the deaths of four workers.

Detailed Training Required

Once the Regulation takes effect, employers will be responsible for ensuring that workers receive health and safety awareness training as soon as practicable. Supervisors will also be required to obtain training within a week of performing work as a supervisor.

While the MOL has published materials with which to conduct the required training, businesses remain free to use health and safety training programs that are already in place, so long as they satisfy the legislated requirements. The MOL is presently preparing a checklist which will allow employers to verify whether their existing health and safety training programs meet the new required standard.

Employer Compliance and Record-Keeping Obligations

The new Regulation will not have its own compliance and enforcement provisions, and therefore will be subject to the existing enforcement and penalty provisions included in the OHSA. Employers will be required to maintain records of worker and supervisor training, including records of workers and supervisors that are exempt from the new requirements. Employers will also have to obtain proof from those claiming an exemption that they have completed a satisfactory training program.

It should also be noted that the new training requirement does not replace other hazard-specific, sector-specific, or competency- specific training that may be required for supervisors or workers under the OHSA or its regulations.

Recommendations for Employers

Employers will need to carefully review all of their obligations as a result of the Regulation. This is particularly the case given that a "worker" is defined in the OHSA to essentially include any person who performs work or supplies services for monetary compensation. Similarly, the concept of "supervisor" has a broad interpretation and application.

Employers should review any health and safety training program which they already have in place, as well as anything provided to their workers in the past, to determine whether they satisfy the MOL's new requirements. If the content of the training does not meet the requirements outlined in the Regulation, the training program will need to be revised. Employers will also need to be able to provide written proof that any required training (whether for new employees and supervisors or when being used to support an exemption) has been completed.