Workplace Safety In Ontario: “Failure Is Not An Option”
Insight The consequences of not keeping workplaces safe can be tragic and costly; but doing the right thing can pay big dividends for workers and employers.
Ontario workplaces are becoming safer. The frequency of work-related injuries and illnesses has declined since 2001. The latest statistics show Ontario had the lowest frequency of workplace injury among Canadian jurisdictions. Can we do better? Yes – we can and we must. I know many workers and employers share our conviction that the only acceptable rate of work-related death, injury or illness is zero.
Every one of us — every worker, every supervisor, every employer — is morally and legally obliged to do all we can to make our workplaces safe. . . to help ensure that everyone returns home safe and sound each day.
Beginning July 1, 2014, all workers and supervisors in Ontario will also need training in basic workplace health and safety awareness. The training will help prevent job-related illnesses and injuries by making workers and supervisors aware of their roles, rights and responsibilities at work.
In recent years there have been well over 200 work-related fatalities at Ontario-regulated workplaces, each of which was preventable.
Work-related fatalities are costly, and not just in terms of lives and personal loss. Consider the economic costs of workplace illnesses, injuries and fatalities. Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board paid workers and their families $2.67 billion in 2012 to compensate for work-related injuries and illnesses. This doesn’t include other costs to the employer in terms of lower productivity, property damage, higher insurance premiums and also the cost of hiring and training replacement workers.
“One work-related death, injury, or illness is one too many.”
The Institute for Work and Health in Ontario has estimated the total economic cost of occupational injuries in Canada was $17 billion in 2008.
At the workplace level, there is a legal obligation to meet the health and safety requirements set out in Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations. Employers, supervisors and workers face consequences if they do not meet these requirements or if they are responsible for an injury, illness or fatality. Because employers have the greatest control over the workplace, they have the greatest responsibility.
Consequences for not complying with the law include fines and even criminal charges. On the other hand, strong occupational health and safety performance can enhance a workplace’s financial sustainability and its public image.
One work-related death, injury or illness is one is too many. A platitude, to be sure, but a belief that is at the core of Ontario’s health and safety system.
When it comes to ensuring the health and safety of workers, failure is not an option. The only option is a collective commitment to zero deaths, injuries and illnesses in Ontario workplaces. Ontario workers deserve nothing less.
Ontario workers have the right to:
▣ Know about workplace hazards and what to do to prevent incidents from happening in the first place
▣ Participate in solving workplace health and safety problems
▣ Refuse work they believe is unsafe
Chief Prevention Officer, Ontario Ministry of Labour