Ontario is serious when it comes to workplace safety. As part of Ontario’s enforcement strategy to increase compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations, the Ministry of Labour (MOL) is scheduled to conduct safety blitzes at workplaces across the province this fall. From September to October, the focus will be on supervision at construction sites.

According to the MOL, inspectors will visit construction projects:

  • identified as being high-priority due to potential hazards arising from inadequate supervision
  • where complaints have been received
  • where there is a history of noncompliance In order to ensure your compliance with respect to supervision at construction sites, it is important to understand the following:
  1. Why have supervisors?  
  2. Who is a supervisor?
  3. What is the definition of “competent”?
  4. What are the responsibilities of supervisors?
  5. What are the consequences of poor supervision?

I. Why have supervisors?

According to section 25(2) (a) of Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), an employer shall provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker.

II. Who is a supervisor?

Definition of supervisor, under section 1 of the OHSA (Ontario), means a person who has charge of a workplace or authority over a worker.

III. What is the definition of “competent”?

According to section 25 (2) (c) of the OHSA (Ontario), when appointing a supervisor an employer shall appoint a competent person.

Competent is defined in the OHSA (Ontario) as:

A person who:

(a) is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance

(b) is familiar with this Act and the regulations that apply to the work

(c) has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace

IV. What are the responsibilities of supervisors?

Supervisor responsibilities, as per section 27 of the OHSA (Ontario), include:

  • working in the manner and with the protective devices, measures and procedures required by this Act and regulations
  • using or wearing the equipment, protective devices or clothing that the worker’s employer requires to be used or worn
  • advising a worker of the existence of any potential or actual danger to the health or safety of the worker of which the supervisor is aware
  • where so prescribed, providing a worker with written instructions as to the measures and procedures to be taken for protection of the worker
  • taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances of the protection of a worker

It is important for supervisors to ensure a competent person is available to act in their place at all times when they are not available to do so themselves (e.g., if away sick or on vacation).

V. What are the consequences to poor supervision?

Inadequate supervision may lead to:

  • unidentified hazards, leading to accidents and injuries at the workplace
  • reduced employee morale
  • reduced production
  • MOL orders
  • charges under the OHSA and/or Criminal Code which can lead to fines and/or jail terms

According to the MOL, violations involving supervisors were among the top 10 orders issued by ministry inspectors under the OHSA in 2011. During this upcoming inspection blitz, inspectors will continue to take enforcement action, as appropriate, in response to any violations of the OHSA and the construction regulations.

Remember, as a supervisor, it is important to:

  • know you duties
  • ensures risks associated with all tasks are identifi ed, assessed and controlled appropriately
  • monitor your employees and existing controls and ensure the company policies, procedures and applicable provisions in the OHS legislation are being adhered to
  • commend workers
  • correct unsafe behaviour and conditions appropriately