The Ontario Ministry of Labour has decided to make some significant changes this year. They plan to enhance the protection for workers in a very specific way: Increasing the maximum fines for workplaces that do not meet the established safety and health standards. This change will affect individuals and businesses.
The changes went into place on December 14, 2017.
Ontario has determined the new amount for maximum fines and penalties. For individuals and unincorporated businesses, the penalties increased from $25,000 to $100,000. For corporations, it has increased from $500,000 to $1,500,000.
These changes reflect a much needed update on the maximum allowed penalties. The cap in fines had not changes for individual and unincorporated businesses since 1979. For corporations, it had remained the same since 1990.
Ontario also changed the time limit allowed for prosecution. Previously, inspectors had one year from the date of the violation to issue a citation. Now, they have one year from the date that an inspector becomes aware of an alleged offense.
“By increasing the fines for non-compliance, we are sending a message to all employers and workers that we are serious about enforcing workplace health and safety,” said Kevin Flynn, Ontario Minister of Labour.
|Data retrieved from the Ontario Ministry of Labour|
So, what does the inspection history say about Ontario workplaces?
In 2016-2017, the Ministry of Labour conducted nearly 80,000 visits to over 34,000 workplaces. Health and safety inspectors issued more than 118,000 orders because of non-compliance.
Workplaces are mandated to comply with Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
In 2016, Ontario courts imposed more than $11 million in fines. They entered over 2,200 convictions for workplaces who violated the OHSA regulations and requirements.
Flynn also states that “Ontario has one of the best worker safety records in Canada. Despite this, people continue to lose their lives or get seriously injured in workplaces every day.”
The criteria for workplace inspections includes (but is not limited to): injury rates; compliance history; hazards inherent to the work; new businesses; size of businesses; specific events or incidents; and the presence of new and/or vulnerable workers.
According to its website, the Government of Ontario and its workplace partners are committed to eliminating all workplace injuries. Safe At Work Ontario is the Minsitry of Labour’s compliance strategy.
It’s designed to: improve the health and safety culture of workplaces; reduce workplace injuries and illnesses; lessen the burden of the healthcare system; avoid costs for employers and the Workplace Safety Insurance Board; and provide a level playing field for compliance strategies.
The ministry focuses its enforcement resources where needed to ensure compliance. They do this with inspections and through issuance of orders and charges.
The ministry also hopes to achieve compliance through cooperation, partnership, and education of workplaces.
To learn more about the health and safety initiatives of Ontario, visit their website and review the Ontario Integrated Health and Safety Strategy.
The strategy includes actions to: Support small businesses with new resources to keep workers safe; ensure that all workers receive the help they need; make the delivery of health and safety services more effective and efficient; raise awareness among Ontarians about ways to stay safe and healthy at work; foster compliance with workplace health and safety regulations.