As of July 1, 2014, employers operating in Ontario must ensure their occupational health and safety programs satisfy new worker and supervisor training requirements.

Under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (the “OHSA”), employers have a general duty to protect their workers from workplace hazards and occupational illnesses. Employers must provide their workers with health and safety information, instruction and supervision, and must carry out training programs as prescribed by legislation.

The new regulation provides more particular requirements for occupational health and safety training programs, requiring employers to ensure workers and supervisors are provided with information and instruction covering the following topics:

Workers

Supervisors

  • Duties and rights of workers under the OHSA
  • Duties of employers and supervisors under the OHSA
  • Roles of joint health and safety committees and health and safety representatives
  • Roles of the Ministry of Labour, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and workplace health and safety associations
  • Common workplace hazards and occupational illnesses
  • Information and instruction requirements on controlled products as set out in the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System Regulation
  • Duties and rights of workers under the OHSA
  • Duties of employers and supervisors under the OHSA
  • Roles of joint health and safety committees and health and safety representatives
  • Roles of the Ministry of Labour, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and workplace health and safety associations
  • How to recognize, assess and control workplace hazards within the workplace and evaluate those controls
  • Sources of information on occupational health and safety

Employers must ensure that workers complete their training “as soon as practicable” and that supervisors complete their training within one week of performing work as a supervisor.  To assist employers in rolling out these new training requirements, the Ministry of Labour has setup an online course: click here [http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/training/index.php] for details.

Exemptions exist for workers and supervisors who have previously completed training with their current or former employer. To qualify for the exemption, the worker or supervisor must be able to provide that he or she completed training and the current employer must be able to verify the adequacy of that training, namely that it met the prescribed minimum content requirements. In addition, supervisors who completed the training for supervisors before the Regulation came into force are not required to complete the worker training in addition to supervisor training.

Employers are also required to maintain a record of training, including a record of supervisors and workers who are exempt from training. If a worker or supervisor submits a written request, the employer must provide written proof of completion of (or exemption from) training. Workers and supervisors have the right to request the written proof up to six months after they cease to work for the employer.

Although employers are not required to exceed the minimum standards set out under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, many employers choose to do so.  Exceeding minimum standards not only decreases the likelihood of workplace accidents, but also helps an employer establish due diligence in defending against a charge under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Employers should review their existing occupational health and safety training programs and ensure they are compliant. Where necessary, workers and supervisors should be required to complete new training courses.  Employers should maintain complete records of all training at its various stages, whether it is in progress, completed, or exempt for a particular employee.

Many thanks to Claire-Marie Colantuoni for her assistance in drafting this blog.