(Canadian OH&S News)
The Ontario Ministry of Labour announced on Nov. 15 that the province will be introducing a new, on-the-job, safety awareness training program next year. The training, which will be mandatory for all companies covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act and provide a basic understanding of the act, goes into effect on July 1, 2014.
“Our aim is making sure that our workplaces are safe,” the province’s Minister of Labour, Yasir Naqvi, told COHSN. “Safer workplaces are productive workplaces. We know that safe workplaces are building blocks of a strong economy and strong communities.”
Naqvi described the program as a series of products including workbooks and questionnaires for both workers and supervisors, who can take part in it through one-hour tutorials either individually or in groups. The information will be available in hard-copy form and via e-learning modules from the Internet, complete with downloadable formats for smartphones. The training will be available in 10 languages, as well as in formats suitable for the visually impaired and for those with limited literacy.
The training will be mandatory for all workplaces and businesses across Ontario save those where workers and supervisors have already received some training. Employees will learn basic information about safety in their workplace environments and what their rights are, Naqvi said.
“It’s really about creating awareness training products that ensure that there is a basic understanding, on both the workers’ and supervisors’ part, as to what the health and safety requirements are,” he explained. “These products were developed in extensive consultations with businesses, worker groups and municipalities, because this is about keeping workers safe and supporting a dynamic business environment.”
The new program is an indirect result of a December 24, 2009 incident in which five migrant construction workers in Toronto fell about 13 storeys from scaffolding on a building when the swing stage scaffold collapsed. Four of them died, and one was seriously injured.
Following the accident, the government of Ontario assembled an Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety, led by retired civil servant Tony Dean. The panel, made up of safety experts from business and academia, conducted a review of Ontario’s workplace health and safety system. The ensuing report offered recommendations, some of which found their way into the Occupational Health and Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, a law that passed in the provincial legislature in May 2011.
“That particular piece of legislation was passed by Ontario legislature unanimously,” said Naqvi. “All three political parties supported the recommendations that were outlined in the expert panel report.”
The report also recommended mandatory occupational safety awareness training for all workers and supervisors — hence the new program.
“The whole thrust behind having mandatory awareness training for workers and supervisors is making sure there’s a basic understanding of health and safety and, at the end of the day, developing a culture of prevention, making sure that all workplaces, be it business or not-for-profit, are safe places to work for all Ontarians,” Naqvi said.
More information on the training program is available at http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/training/index.php.