Ontario Legal Compliance Paradigm Shift Accelerates

There has been a transition within the Ministry of Labour (MOL) for legal compliance requirements that protect workers to be less strict directives and more flexible to workplace conditions. This paradigm shift is moving from prescription to hazard management. Rather than MOL specifically directing employers how to protect workers, it places greater emphasis on the employer to identify hazards and implement reasonable protective controls. This can be seen for many requirements released by the MOL over the last decade or so. And, the MOL is poised for a significant acceleration of this hazard management legal compliance trend.

The following are examples of hazard management focused legal compliance requirements that have been released:

In 2005, Regulation 632 Confined Spaces conduct “an adequate assessment of the hazards related to the confined space.” Based on the results, the employer must develop and implement plans for the safe entry of the confined space “including procedures for the control of hazards identified in the assessment.” This framework is classic hazard management; identify hazards and develop means of protection. The employer establishes what is present that can harm workers and what must be done to keep workers safe for confined spaces.

In 2009, Part III.0.1 Violence And Harassment requirements were added to the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA). Again, the legal compliance requirements are classic hazard management. The employer must “assess the risks of workplace violence” and implement a program that includes “measures and procedures to control the risks identified in the assessment.” The legal requirements do not dictate worker protection through security systems, controlled access, emergency alarm buttons, safe rooms, etc. but rather the employer decides what protective measures they will implement based on the hazards identified for workplace violence.

The MOL has recently released this Amendment Proposal to Regulation 851 Industrial Establishments on February 6, 2018. It is a consultation paper for public review and comment on numerous new proposed legal compliance requirements including several based on the hazard management paradigm:

Traffic Management Program – the proposed amendments are similar to the confined space and workplace violence legal compliance requirements above. The employer will need to evaluate their workplace to recognize and control hazards related to vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Results will be compiled into a written program that must be reviewed at least annually. They will likely be very similar to the recently released requirements outlined in Regulation 854 Mines & Mining Plants section 105.1

Risk Assessment – the proposed amendments will require employers with 20 or more workers to assess and manage the risks of workplace hazards. Results must be in writing and reviewed at least annually. Again, these types of requirements were recently released in Regulation 854 Mines & Mining Plants section 5.1-5.3. Many employers who have passed accreditations such as CSA z1000, OHSAS 18000, Workwell, Certificate of Recognition (COR), etc. should already have this type of process operating while others will need to develop and implement it. This represents the most significant acceleration of the hazard management paradigm within legal compliance requirements. No longer will the scope be specific to a single OHS hazard like those above but rather ALL hazards must be considered. Employers must identify all hazards, assess the associated risks for all and establish protection controls for all.

Also of note within the hazard management paradigm is the requirement that the assessment results and protection controls must be done in writing. No longer will it be sufficient to only “do” the requirements but there must also be formal written internal standards and records. Also, there must be communication through distribution to the Joint Health & Safety Committee (JHSC), availability to workers and training on internal requirements. Further, these formal written documents must be reviewed and most often on at least an annual basis.

Ultimately, this path of formalized hazards management for legal compliance will likely continue. Employers should learn to embrace and utilize it. There will be greater and greater emphasis on employers to evaluate their workplace and develop reasonable means of protection; no longer will legislation dictate what must be done to protect workers. And, all of it must have supporting documentation and records to demonstrate compliance with ongoing reviews. Employers must ensure they have adequate resources to implement these types of processes and competent individuals to oversee their ongoing operation and continuous improvements.

Jeff Benoit  R.Kin, B.Sc, CRSP
Senior Consultant-Trainer


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