Occupational Health and Safety Inspection Program
By Anthony Purgas
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
AMSC Casual Legal Service Provider
Since changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 2014, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) has been conducting inspections more proactively rather than simply following up on complaints. This program has continued even after the provincial government adopted the new Occupational Health and Safety Act that came into force in June 2018. The purpose of the inspections is to focus on workplace hazards and ensure compliance with the OHS Act, Regulation, and Code.
Each year OHS chooses particular industrial sectors to proactively inspect. The particular sectors are ones that have relatively high injury and illness rates, high frequency of incidents or complaints, persistently low rates of compliance, or are emerging trends noted by OHS. In 2019, OHS has also commenced a program of focused inspections on particular areas in which many municipalities are engaged. The priority sectors OHS is focused on are:
1) Exhibitions: These inspections were done throughout the summer months focused on exhibitions based on the fact that it is a sector with many young workers, who are considered more likely to be injured at work than older workers.
2) Careworkers: Because care workers support and supervise vulnerable individuals, there are often significant risks of violence-related injuries to workers. These inspections will be conducted between February and March 2020.
3) Residential Infill Construction: The inspectors are focusing on preventing falls and other common sources of injury that arise in this sector. OHS is presently conducting these inspections and will continue throughout the fall of 2019.
Employers have a responsibility to cooperate with OHS inspectors who attend at their work sites. They can attend without warrant during reasonable business hours. Interference with an inspector is a breach of the OHS Act and the employer may receive a fine for doing so. In addition, if there are any contraventions of the Act, Regulation, or Code found, the inspectors have the authority to issue administrative penalties, which can range up to $10,000 per day per contravention.
It is important that municipalities understand they have a number of responsibilities under the OHS Act and ensure they are fulfilling their requirements. A municipality does not want to wait for an inspector to review their work site and find it wanting. Hiring a safety officer where practical or a consultant where a full-time position is not practical can be a key step to avoiding substantial liability.
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DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.