Meeting occupational health and safety ("OHS") legal obligations is easier said than done. With the requirements under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”) and a multitude of regulations, guidelines, standards and codes of practice to review, understand, apply and manage, it is no wonder that many employers are left wondering if they can achieve everything required to meet their obligations.

The OHSA requires you to ensure your workplace is safe for employees, visitors and contractors. Are you confident that you have a safe workplace? Do you have an effective OHS Management System? Does your OHS Management System meet OHS legal requirements? Many employers in this country are not meeting their OHS obligations and are lacking an effective OHS Management System. According to data collected by the Association of Worker's Compensation Boards of Canada, 1097 workplace fatalities were recorded in Canada in 2005, up 45% from 758 in 1993.

As Canadians work on average 230 days per year, this means that there were nearly five work related deaths per work day in this country.

Many companies have seen the benefits of an effective OHS Management System in fewer accidents, reduced costs, higher productivity, better morale and improved quality.

Elements of an OHS Management System

An OHS Management System can be defined as "that part of the overall management system, which includes organizational structure, planning activities, responsibilities, practices and procedures, processes and resources for developing, implementing, achieving, reviewing and maintaining the OHS Policy, and managing the OHS risks." An effective OHS Management System includes, but is not limited to the following elements: 

  • Company OHS policy statement - reviewed and updated annually in consultation with the JHSC, signed by the most senior level person in the organization, dated, posted and distributed to employees; 
  • Health and safety program in place to implement the policy commitments; 
  • Clearly defined roles for managers, supervisor and employees; 
  • Hiring of competent supervisors (knowledge, training and experience); 
  • Posted copy of the OHSA as well as applicable regulations - WHMIS, First Aid,WSIB Forms etc.; 
  • Specific health and safety policies and procedures that address workplace hazards - in accordance with workplace hazard assessment; 
  • Health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee in place (as required); 
  • JHSC has two certified members (if applicable); 
  • Workplace inspections completed monthly by worker member of JHSC or health and safety representative; 
  • Appropriate training of all employees which includes orientation training and workplace specific hazard training (documented through training records, enforced, ongoing process); 
  • Incident reporting and investigation system in place; 
  • Policy on early and safe return to work; 
  • Completed physical demands analysis for all job categories; 
  • Appropriate number of first aiders trained, certificates posted, first aid station stocked, maintained and inspected; 
  • All job descriptions include health and safety responsibility which is measured in performance appraisals (best practice); 
  • Emergency response plan; 
  • Disciplinary policy for OHS violations; and, 
  • Process to monitor and enforce OHS requirements.

These elements must be implemented to maintain an effective OHS Management System. It is up to each individual employer to customize their own OHS Management System to manage their specific risks and hazards. At a minimum, an OHS Management System must include the elements required by the applicable provincial or federal health and safety legislation.