ONTARIO’S NEW HEALTH AND SAFETY REQUIREMENTS

January 28, 2008
Written by Rick Mahoney
While the Ministry of Labour and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board have targeted all industries, there has been a lot of recent attention on greenhouses. One initiative is the application of Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (with some limitations and conditions) to all greenhouse operations with paid workers.

As employers know, workplace accidents happen despite the best intentions and safety practices. Recently in Ontario, the provincial government has increased regulations surrounding health and safety in the
workplace. As a result, there has been a greater onus on employers to provide a safe workplace while maintaining compliant and effective accident reporting and management systems.

Additionally, the government has been increasing the costs associated with non-compliance, through Ministry of Labour (MOL) and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) initiatives. Fines for non-compliance can vary, ranging up to $25,000 per individual plus one year imprisonment, and $500,000 for the company, plus criminal charges.

While the MOL and WSIB have targeted all industries, there has been a lot of recent attention on greenhouses. One initiative is the application of Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (with some limitations and conditions) to all greenhouse operations with paid workers.

Although greenhouse operations will not need to comply with all aspects of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, key sections will be enforced by the MOL. Some sections that will apply include those pertaining to health and safety representatives, joint health and safety committees, and the duties of employers, supervisors and workers.

The following is a summary of some basic obligations laid out in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, but is not an exhaustive list of responsibilities:

a) Health & safety representative – every greenhouse operation with five to 19 employees must have a health & safety representative. This representative must:

• Perform workplace inspections.

• Be involved in accident investigations.

• Make recommendations to improve the health and safety of the workplace.

b) Joint health and safety committees – every greenhouse operation with 20 or more employees will require a two- to four-person joint health and safety committee. This committee must:

• Perform workplace inspections.

• Be involved in accident investigations.

• Make recommendations to improve the health and safety of the workplace.

c) Duties of employers – every greenhouse employer must:

• Provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker.

• Take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.

d) Duties of supervisors – every greenhouse supervisor must:

• When necessary, provide a worker with written instructions as to the measures and procedures to be taken for protection of the worker.

• Take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.

e) Duties of workers – every greenhouse worker must:

• Use or wear the equipment, protective devices or clothing that the employer requires to be used or worn.

• Report to his or her employer or supervisor the absence of, or defect in, any equipment or protective device of which the worker is aware and which may endanger himself/herself or another employee.

In order to meet legislated compliance requirements, greenhouse operations will need to create, implement, maintain and train all staff (owners, supervisors and workers) with the operation’s health and safety manual, which must be comprised of various health and safety policies and procedures.

The WSIB has also implemented initiatives to increase enforcement of non-compliant greenhouse operations. One such initiative is a system interface with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). By aligning their information systems, the WSIB is able to identify greenhouses that are CRA-registered businesses in Ontario but are not registered with the WSIB. This information-sharing has resulted in more than 5,000 firms (from all industries) identified and approached for WSIB registration in 2005. Any non-compliant companies may also be subject to fines and retroactive adjustments for non-payments. (The WSIB can charge up to five years in retroactive adjustments.)

With endless revisions to health, safety and WSIB legislation and additional provincial scrutiny, it is clear that the legal obligation for greenhouse operations is increasing. Ministry of Labour and WSIB enforcement is intensifying and the cost of non-compliance can be devastating to a greenhouse operation and individual members of the organization. Conformity is the only viable option. Contact a WSIB consultant to find out more about your risks and how you can become WSIB and health and safety compliant.

Rick Mahoney is a senior consultant with Deloitte & Touche LLP; 416-601-4845, or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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