Employer FAQs on Ontario Health and Safety Awareness Training

  • OHSA
Employer FAQs on Ontario Health and Safety Awareness Training
Michelle Ann Zoleta

Michelle Ann Zoleta, Health & Safety Team Manager

(Last updated )

Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development ensures compliance with workplace health and safety standards. It does so by enforcing the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), the primary provincial legislation on workplace health and safety.

To protect workers from risks and hazards in the workplace, the Occupational Health and Safety Act sets down the duties and rights of employers, supervisors, and workers. It also outlines the procedures for dealing with hazards and consequences of non-compliance.

Regulation 297/13 of the OHSA states that all Ontario workplaces covered by the OHSA must ensure their workers and supervisors complete a mandatory occupational health and safety awareness training program. The training must meet the requirements laid down in the Regulation.

What is the purpose of the health and safety awareness training?

The goal of the awareness training is to apprise workers and supervisors of key workplace health and safety concerns. The training teaches them about their rights and responsibilities under the OHSA.

This ties up with OHSA’s larger purpose of creating an Internal Responsibility System in workplaces.

As per this concept, the employer and employees are best suited to recognizing health and safety challenges in the workplace and finding solutions. The awareness training, which is in addition to sector specific OHSA training, seeks to provide them with the knowledge and information needed to fulfill that joint responsibility.

Workers Awareness Training Program

Employers across sectors have to make sure all their workers have completed the workers awareness training program as soon as possible. This applies to all workers – full-time, part-time, seasonal – covered by the OHSA.

What areas should the health and safety awareness training program for workers cover?

The basic awareness training program for workers must include training on the following:

  • Duties and rights of workers under OHSA
  • Duties of employers and supervisors under OHSA
  • Common workplace hazards
  • Roles of health and safety representatives and Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSCs) under OHSA
  • Roles of the Ministry of Labour, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and entities under OHSA Section 22.5
  • Requirements in Regulation 860 [Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)] about information and instruction on controlled products, and
  • Occupational illness, including latency
Are there any exemptions?

A worker can be exempted from this training if:

  • They’ve already completed a basic occupational health and safety awareness training program
  • They provide the employer with proof of completion of that training and
  • The employer verifies the previous training covered the required content set out in the Regulation

Supervisor Awareness Training Program

The OHSA defines a supervisor as a person appointed by the employer with charge of a workplace or authority over workers. This definition includes temporary or occasional supervisors and employers who directly supervise workers.

What areas should the awareness training program for supervisors cover?

The basic awareness training for supervisors must include training on the:

  • Duties and rights of workers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act
  • Duties of employers and supervisors under OHSA
  • Roles of Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSCs) and health and safety representatives under OHSA
  • Roles of the Ministry of Labour, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and entities under OHSA Section 22.5
  • How to recognize, assess and control workplace hazards, and how to review those controls
  • Sources of information on occupational health and safety
Are there any exemptions?

A supervisor can be exempted from undergoing the supervisor awareness training if they:

  • Took a previous awareness training program for supervisors
  • Provide the employer with proof of completion of that training and
  • The employer verifies the previous training covered the required content set out in the Regulation

Do supervisors also have to complete the worker awareness training program?

Under the OHSA, a supervisor is also a worker. So, supervisors must also complete the workers awareness training. But a supervisor can be exempted if:

  • The supervisor was working for the employer as a supervisor before July 1, 2014, and
  • The employer is able to verify that the supervisor completed an awareness training program for supervisors that meets the requirements of subsection 2(3) prior to July 1, 2014
Is there a deadline to complete the training programs?

As per the Regulation, the awareness training for workers must be completed as soon as practicable. Ideally, workers should take the training before they start working for an employer and are exposed to hazards in the workplace.

Supervisors must complete the training within one week of starting work.

What about the training materials for the programs?

The Ministry of Labour Ontario has created occupational health and safety awareness training programs for workers and supervisors. Employers can use these programs prepared by the Ministry of Labour for free. They are available in multiple languages and both as printable workbooks and online e-learning modules.

Do employers have to use the training materials provided by the Ministry of Labour Ontario?

No. It is not mandatory that employers use the MOL training materials. They can create their own training programs or use externally provided training too. But the chosen training must meet the minimum content requirements set out in the Regulation.

What are the rules on maintaining records of training completion?

As an employer, you must keep a record of awareness training for all your employees. You must also maintain a record of employees exempted from the training. During a workplace inspection or investigation, the MOL inspector may ask to see the training completion records.

You must also, on request, provide the worker or supervisor with:

  • written proof of training completion
  • written proof of exemption from training (if that is the case)

Your record of training completion should state:

  • The name of the employee
  • The date of training completion
  • The name or a brief description of the training course or program

The Ministry of Labour Ontario also provides a Record Keeping Template for this purpose. The Regulation does not specify a duration for keeping the record. But since employers must provide written proof of completion or exemption if a request is made within six months of the employee’s resignation, they must save the record for at least six months after an employee quits.

What are the penalties for non-compliance with the OHSA?

Not complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations may result in penalties.

The maximum fine that can be imposed on an individual for contravention of OHSA is $100,000 and/or up to 12 months imprisonment. The maximum fine for a corporation found guilty of the same offence is $1,500,000.

How does the Ministry of Labour Ontario ensure enforcement of OHSA? 

The Ministry of Labour Ontario ensures compliance through workplace inspections. MOL health and safety inspectors can inspect a provincially regulated workplace proactively or in response to a complaint/work refusal/accident.

Inspectors have different enforcement tools at their disposal to enforce compliance. They can issue orders directing employers to make changes or corrections to become compliant with the law. They can also issue a stop-work order in case of immediate risk of injury to workers due to non-compliance. Inspectors also have the powers to issue tickets or initiate prosecution.

Do you need help ensuring your workplace is compliant with Ontario’s OHS law?

By fulfilling your health and safety obligations as an employer, you not only ensure the safety of your employees, but also protect your business from costly fines.

Our expert advisors can help you prepare for workplace inspections, develop relevant health and safety policies, and assist you with any health and safety advice you need. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call us today at 1 (833) 247-3652

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