Ontario is once again attempting to increase worker safety by amending the province’s occupational health and safety legislation. On March 3, 2011 the Ontario government introduced Bill 160, An Act to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 with respect to occupational health and safety matters, which was created in response to the recommendations provided by the Expert Panel on Occupational Health and Safety. The formation of the Expert Panel was triggered by a 2009 Christmas Eve workplace accident in which four Toronto construction workers died when the suspended scaffolding they were working on collapsed. The purpose of Bill 160 is to further elevate the level of protection for Ontario workers, and if passed, would significantly amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Among the amendments are the following notable proposals:
- a Chief Prevention Officer will be appointed by the Minster of Labour to develop a provincial occupational health and safety strategy, prepare an annual report and advise the Minister on occupational health and safety matters;
- a prevention council, comprised of designates representing employers, labour and safety experts, will be appointed by the Minister of Labour to advise the Minister on the appointment of a Chief Prevention Officer and the Chief Prevention Officer on occupational health and safety matters;
- constructors or employers will be required to provide health and safety representatives (where a joint health and safety committee is not required) with designated training;
- the Minister of Labour will have the ability to set training and other requirements that must be met to become a certified member of a joint health and safety committee;
- the Minister of Labour will have the ability to set standards for training programs and program providers, and collect information and maintain records of successful completion of approved training programs;
- a co-chair of a joint health and safety committee may make written recommendations to a constructor or employer if the committee fails to reach a consensus;
- entities that meet established standards may be designated by the Minister of Labour as a safe workplace association or a medical clinic or training centre specializing in health and safety matters; and
- where circumstances warrant, inspectors will be able to refer matters to the Board where a worker alleges that his or her employer has violated the prohibition against reprisals.
Bill 160 just passed first reading on March 1, 2011. We will post updates as further developments occur.