No provision yet for MOL to impose “administrative monetary penalties”, but new certified member training requirements coming. Codes of Practice will provide broader defence

The Ontario government has introduced amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act resulting from the recent report of an expert panel. Bill 160 received first reading on March 3, 2011.

No “Administrative Monetary Penalties” – Yet. Perhaps because it is an election year, the government appears to have chosen not to implement the recommendation that might have concerned employers the most: giving the MOL power to impose monetary penalties without laying charges in the courts. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment already has such a power.

Training Standards and Codes of Practice. The two changes most likely to directly impact employers are: (1) the Minister of Labour will be given the authority to establish standards for health and safety training of health and safety representatives and certified members of joint health and safety committees, and (2) Codes of Practice approved by the Minister may now be used to prove compliance with the OHSA itself (for instance, employers’ general duty to take reasonable precautions) rather than with the regulations only (for instance, guarding requirements in the Industrial Regulations).

Reprisals. Where the employee consents, the Bill will also allow an MOL inspector to refer a reprisal issue to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, instead of requiring the employee to file a reprisal complaint – alleging that he or she was punished for raising safety issues ‐ him or herself.

Expanded Mandate of Offices of Worker and Employer Adviser. Under the Bill, the Minister may assign the Office of the Worker Adviser and the Office of the Employer Adviser the authority to advise workers and employers with fewer than 100 employees, respectively, on health and safety matters, rather than simply on workers’ compensation matters. This change could provide a real benefit to small employers.

Prevention. The MOL will assume responsibility for prevention of injuries and accidents. Previously, the OHSA did not explicitly make this a responsibility of the MOL.

Chief Prevention Officer. There will be a new Chief Prevention Officer for Ontario who will be tasked with providing leadership on the prevention of workplace injury and occupational diseases. The MOL has already appointed an Interim Health and Safety Prevention Council headed by Paavo Kivisto, former Deputy Minister of Labour.

Health and Safety Associations. The Minister of Labour will also be given oversight power over the Province’s health and safety associations (Infrastructure Health and Safety Association, Workplace Safety North, Public Services Health & Safety Association, Workplace Safety & Prevention Services), under the leadership of the Chief Prevention Officer.

The report of the Expert Advisory Panel, which was released in December 2010, can be viewed at:

http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pdf/eap_report.pdf

Bill 160, Occupational Health and Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2011: (http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?locale=en&Intranet=&BillID=2463)