New certified member training equirements coming and Codes of Practice provide wider 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.

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

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

There will be a new Chief Prevention Officer for Ontario who will be tasked with providing leadership on the prevention of workplace injuries and occupational diseases.

The Minister of Labour will also be given oversight power over the province’s health and safety associations under the leadership of the Chief Prevention Officer.

Bill 160, Occupational Health and Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2011