The Report of the Minister of Labour’s Expert Advisory Panel on Health and Safety was released on December 16, 2010. The recommendations come from a 10-member panel, led by Tony Dean, a professor in the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto.

In January 2010, the Minister of Labour appointed Tony Dean as Chair of the Expert Advisory Panel tasked with conducting a comprehensive review of Ontario’s occupational health and safety system. The goal of the review is to eventually achieve improved compliance and zero workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities.

The Report calls for a major overhaul Ontario’s workplace safety system, and recommends that the prevention division of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board be replaced by a new prevention organization headed by a Chief Prevention Executive.

The establishment of a prevention organization and a Chief Prevention Officer are among the list of 46 recommendations from an investigation that was sparked by the deaths of four workers and the serious injury of a fifth last Christmas Eve in a scaffolding accident.

Key Recommendations:

  • Appointment of a multi-stakeholder Prevention Council to assist in implementation of recommendations and new system structure.  
  • Establishment of a separate Prevention Organization and a Chief Prevention Officer to lead a more integrated, efficient and accountable system  
  • Mandatory training for workplace health and safety representatives as well as workers and supervisors regarding workplace rights and responsibilities  
  • Mandatory entry-level training for construction workers on construction site safety  
  • Implementation of mandatory rigorous training standards for workers who work at heights and on other high-risk activities
  • Tougher and ascending monetary penalties for those who place workers at risk of death or serious injury as well as the development of administrative monetary penalties  
  • Improved integration of OHS training in schools and universities  
  • Development of an accreditation program for top-flight employers, with less focus on frequency and cost of claims, that encourages them to influence the health and safety performance of contractors in their supply chains.  
  • Integrated and targeted enforcement for workplaces in the “underground economy”  

It will now be the responsibility of the Province to determine how to best implement the Panel’s recommendations. The Report recommends that an interim prevention council be established as soon as possible and that the prevention organization be created within 12 months of the release of the recommendations. The Report also suggests immediate development by the Ministry of Labour of a health and safety poster to be posted in all workplaces explaining rights and responsibilities for workplace safety, and including information such as where to access more information and how to contact an inspector.  

The panel focused on the role of the CEO and senior management in driving the recommended change in safety culture. This Report’s focus on senior management is reminiscent of the Bill C-45 changes to the Criminal Code whereby an Officer or a Director of an organization can be found guilty of criminal negligence for the death or injury of a worker. It remains to be seen how these recommendations may change the focus of Ministry enforcement policies.  

The Panel stresses that improving health and safety in a workplace has a direct link to better business results. The Panel further urges employers to view a cultural shift in health and safety as a positive result and states the implementation of these recommendations will allow employers to see “improved value for the investment that [they] have [made] in prevention and enforcement”.  

However, it is not all good news for employers as the Panel also recommends tougher, escalating penalties for non-compliance. Employers will have to seek input into the new enforcement system and there is no indication that workers or unions will share in the increased penalties for non-compliance with OHS regulations.