What is the Difference Between OHS and Public Health and Safety?

  • OHSA
Michelle Ann Zoleta

Michelle Ann Zoleta, Health & Safety Team Manager

(Last updated )

report by Canadian Worker’s Compensation found that 925 workers died due to work-related causes in 2020.

Occupational health and safety programs are crucial in reducing accidents and illnesses in the workplace. Employers play a vital role in preventing workplace accidents and injuries and promoting safe and healthy workplaces. Under the OHS law, employers have a legal duty to take every reasonable precaution to provide a safe workplace to their staff.

To ensure that employees have the necessary information, training, and supervision to perform their jobs safely, employers have certain responsibilities and obligations. Every jurisdiction in Canada has its own occupational health and safety legislation, while federally regulated workplaces are governed under Part II of the Canada Labour Code.

When establishing best health and safety practices for the workplace, employers often must distinguish between occupational health and safety and public health and safety. Despite their similarities, there are distinct differences between the two which employers should be aware of.

What is public health?

Public health is an organized effort to keep employees safe on a societal level. Its programs, services, and policies are designed to prevent injury, illness, and premature death.

Public health’s four essential roles are to protect, prevent, promote, and monitor. The aim of public health is to optimize the physical and mental health of the population, with an emphasis on protecting vulnerable populations.

Public health officials constantly monitor the health status of Canada to detect if problems are worsening or anomalies arise in specific regions. Its employees also work to protect populations against immediate health threats and prevent epidemics or contamination.

Its departments inform and educate the public and decision-makers, with the aim to empower citizens to take action to protect their health. Public health bodies also recommend that governments adopt policies, regulations, legislations, and programs that support safe and healthy living environments, equitable services, and livable conditions for all.

To achieve these goals, public health works with various partners in all sectors of society. Through collaboration with several organizations, public health policies work to prevent societal issues such as chronic diseases, mental health problems, violence, suicide, discrimination, addictions, drowning, homelessness, and school dropouts.

What is Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)?

While public health and safety’s purpose is to protect the health and safety of society, occupational health and safety (OHS) deals with these issues specifically in the workplace. To achieve this, OHS has a strong focus on the primary prevention of hazards and its policies are put in place to prevent accidents and harm to people from work-related activities.

Health Canada contributes to occupational health and safety (OHS) issues by coordinating the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System and monitoring workplace radiation exposure. It also provides employee assistance services and occupational health services to federal employees.

Occupational health and safety legislation in each jurisdiction outlines the general rights and responsibilities of the employer, the supervisor, and the worker through an Act or statute and related regulations. Each of the ten provinces, three territories and the federal government has its own OH&S legislation.

Each province in Canada has its own health and safety acts that work to regulate health and safety in their respective workplaces. These individually set down health and safety policies and procedures for employers to follow to prevent and manage safety hazards and risks in the workplace. OHSA Ontario helps employers create healthy and safe workplaces while ensuring employees are also aware of their rights and responsibilities.

What is the difference between OHS and public health and safety?

In a nutshell, occupational health and safety focus on health and safety in the workplace while public health is aimed at protecting society on a broader level.

Do you need help ensuring your workplace is compliant with provincial health and safety laws?

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 experts can help you prepare for workplace inspections, develop relevant health and safety policies, and assist you on any health and safety issues that may arise . To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call us today at 1 (833) 247-3652

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