Ontario Government Aims to Prevent 60,000 Workplace Injuries Per Year With More Inspectors, Broader Powers

The government of the Canadian province of Ontario says it plans to cut workplace injuries by 20 percent over the next 4 years, and as part of that plan the Ontario Ministry of Labour last week announced that health and safety inspectors now can issue tickets for unsafe workplace practices in the industrial sector.

The news comes on the heels of the ministry's December announcement that the government has begun training 100 new occupational health and safety inspectors as part of its plan to prevent 60,000 workplace injuries per year by 2008.

Safety inspectors previously could issue tickets only in construction, mining and diving. The Ministry of Labour says it has expanded their enforcment authority to include the industrial sector, which covers a variety of different areas, including automotive, logging, restaurants and retail.

"Ticketing gives our inspectors more flexibility to deal immediately with those who violate health and safety requirements in the workplace," Labour Minister Chris Bentley said. "This initiative will also discourage anyone from trying to gain an unfair advantage over law-abiding competitors by ignoring workplace health and safety."

Among the other tools used to enforce the workplace safety laws in the Canadian province are stop-work orders, orders to comply and other prosecution processes under the Provincial Offences Act, according to the ministry.

More powers, more inspectors

Not only do safety inspectors have broader powers, but now there are more inspectors -- the ministry announced last July that it planned to increase its environmental health and safety enforcement staff by 200 .

The beefed-up enforcement ranks, according to the ministry, will:

  • Allow the ministry to initially target 6,000 workplaces with the highest lost-time injury rates.
  • Visit these sites four times a year.
  • Focus on workplace hazards to help firms reduce on-the-job injuries.

Over the next 3 months, the newly hired inspectors will receive classroom and hands-on instruction and they will begin work across Ontario in April, according to the Ministry of Labour. The ministry says it plans to hire 100 more inspectors over the next year.

Examples of possible violations

Employers, supervisors and workers can be issued tickets for certain violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act's industrial regulations. Examples of violations include:

  • Failing to wear fall protection equipment, such as a harness and lifeline.
  • Failing to use a machine with adequate guarding.
  • Failing to ensure a lifting device is operated safely.

Tickets are issued under the Provincial Offences Act and carry set fines, including court costs, of $200 or $300, depending on the offense. If issued a ticket, the party can choose to either pay the fine or appear in a provincial court to dispute the offence.

Bentley, in a news release, said the government's workplace safety initiative "will reduce the burden on the health care system, result in savings for the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and level the playing field for companies that operate safely."

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