Consultation with northern Ontario workplace health and safety experts
In May, Brian Lewis, director of strategy and integration for the new Prevention Office at the Ministry of Labour met with regional health and safety association representatives in North Bay.
Lewis was in town as part of the Ministry’s series of strategic consultations on the development of Ontario’s first integrated occupational health and safety strategy. Having visited Mississauga and Ottawa earlier in the month, Lewis made a stop in North Bay on May 14, before heading to London. He opened the session by highlighting the fact that this is the most significant opportunity to positively affect Ontario’s occupational health and safety system in over 30 years.
In 2010, following the tragic death of four workers on Christmas Eve 2009, an Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety led by Tony Dean delivered a report containing recommendations that call for some of the most significant changes to the Ontario health and safety system in decades.
A priority recommendation of the panel was the development of an integrated occupational health and safety strategy for Ontario that would effectively integrate, align, and coordinate programs and services covering the entire range of occupational health and safety supports, from prevention to compliance to enforcement. To that end, the ministry has been conducting consultations with the public as well as occupational health and safety experts.
Regional representatives from Workplace Safety North provided advice and feedback on improving Ontario’s occupational health and safety system including making health and safety solutions more accessible.
A stronger health and safety presence in the education system was recommended in order to educate high school students prior to their entry into the workforce, including more inter-ministry collaboration between the Ontario ministries of education, health, citizenship and immigration, training, economic development, and labour.
Lewis made it clear that when it comes to the prevention of injury and illness the government has prioritized top concerns: vulnerable workers such as new, young, and immigrant workers; high hazard occupations; and small business.
What changes mean for employers
Upcoming changes benefit Ontario employers and workers:
- Mandatory health and safety awareness training means safer workers, and safer workplaces.
- Special attention on what’s most critical: vulnerable workers as well as high-risk sectors and activities.
- Added support to small businesses.
- Monetary and non-monetary incentives to motivate superior health and safety performance.
Ideally, the promotion of a safety culture is one of the most effective ways to raise awareness and create social norms that help make workplaces healthier and safer.
With consultations wrapped up on May 17, feedback will be gathered, with plans for the government to release a formal strategy document by year-end, according to Lewis.
More information on MOL strategy discussions: www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/prevention/index.php
Access MOL discussion paper on the integrated strategy at: www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/prevention/strategy.php
Related story: Government asks for public input on workplace safety
About WSN: Workplace Safety North believes illnesses and injuries can and must be prevented. An independent not-for-profit health and safety organization, WSN is a leading provider of health and safety training and consulting for Ontario mining, forestry, paper, printing, and converting sectors. WSN was formed by the 2010 amalgamation of three key safety associations: Mines and Aggregates Safety and Health Association (MASHA), Ontario Forestry Safe Workplace Association (OFSWA), and the Pulp and Paper Health and Safety Association (PPHSA). For more information, please visit www.workplacesafetynorth.ca.