London, ON (May 2011) – Over 100,000 businesses in Ontario will be impacted by the approval of Bill 160 on May 18, 2011.
All employers and contractors in Ontario with 6-19 employees are currently required to have a Health and Safety Representative, but no formal training is mandated. Bill 160 now introduces a training requirement for this Health and Safety Representative.
Following the publication of the Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health & Safety in December 2010 – The Dean Report, Bill 160, Occupational Health and Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2011 was drafted to address its recommendations.
On May 18 Bill 160 received its third reading and was carried by 79 votes to 0. This is the last stage before it will be recommended for Royal Assent, shortly after which it will be given a statute number and become law.
“…..This bill is about moving forward to protect the health and safety of working people in the province of Ontario. New amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, represent the largest overhaul of the province’s safety system in 30 years.” Charles Sousa – Ontario Minister of Labour
What will this mean to small businesses in Ontario?
The answer depends to some degree on how many people are employed in the workplace:
**If more than 6 but no more than 19 employees work at a location then the employer is required to appoint a Health & Safety Representative. Bill 160 requires that they receive formal health and safety training.
**Workplaces with 20 employees or more must have two employees that have successfully completed Joint Health and Safety Committee Certification Training, one representing the workers the other the employer. Bill 160 will require a newer, more prescriptive training program.
**Mentioned in the Dean Report, but not specifically in Bill 160 is the issue of mandatory health & safety training for young workers. However the parliamentary debate on May 17th contained these words:
“Then there’s young workers-secondary and post-secondary education. The expert panel has recommended-and we will be moving forward with-new and enhanced efforts to reach out to young workers. We will be developing new materials and programs to help assure that teens entering the workforce know their rights and their responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. We owe it to our young people, our children, to give them the knowledge and the tools to keep themselves safe as they enter the workforce.”
Bill 160 also contains increased provisions against reprisals for workers who report safety infractions to the MOL.
What is not especially clear is how the administrative changes to Health and Safety enforcement will affect employers. Bill 160 will remove the responsibility of prevention of workplace injury and illness from the WSIB and place it in the Ministry of Labour (MOL) under a new Chief Prevention Officer (CPO) who will be advised by a new Prevention Council. The Prevention Council will be composed of representatives from trade unions, provincial labour organizations, employers, the WSIB and persons with health & safety expertise. These will be powerful entities with the ability to regulate without further actions from Parliament.
For more information on Bill 160 and its health and safety training implications, please contact Occupational Safety Group Inc. at www.osg.ca