The New Year is bringing changes to workplace safety standards across Canada. Provinces recently passed work safety billswhich increase the rights of workers to refuse unsafe work. Ontario has passed similar legislation in the past with Bill 177, which reformed the fines employers may face for safety violations and the responsibilities of employers. If you’re in Ontario, here’s what you need to know about these updates to workplace safety in Canada.  

The Right to Refuse Unsafe Work 

In Canada, safety legislation has further empowered workers to refuse unsafe work, by ensuring that they are protected from potential employer retaliation when they do so. Now, if an employee alerts their employer that they believe their work is unsafe, the employer is obligated to look into the hazard and eliminate it. They must continue to pay their employees while they conduct the investigation. 

Increase in Maximum Fines 

In Ontario, employers are facing a change in the maximum fine structure for safety violations. Though the changes are large, this is the first time since 1990 that the maximum fines have changed. 

Now, individuals found in violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act may be fined between $25,000 to $100,000. Corporations may now be fined between $500,000 and $1,500,000, which is triple the maximum fine of the past. It is more important than ever for employers to remain on top of their safety obligations to avoid these steep fines. 

Informing Employees and Regulators of Safety Hazards 

Ontario’s Bill 177 has introduced other safety changes for employers. Employers now have more responsibility to inform employees of the hazards they face in the workplace. You have to decide how best to inform workers about their hazards, but you need to make sure that you address them all. 

Also, Ontario employers are now required to inform the Ministry of Labour if you do not own the workplace and the JHSC or one of its representatives find a structural inadequacy (that could pose a danger to workers. 

For example, let’s say that you’re a landscaping company that rents your equipment storage locker. Your JHSC finds that the ceiling in the storage area is sagging, raising questions about the integrity of the roof. You are required to report this issue to the Ministry of Labour. You should inform the property owner too.  

Avoiding Fines   

How can you avoid the new maximum fines and fulfill your safety obligations? Your first step should be to make sure that your workplace Health and Safety Committee members are certified and up to date in their training. They can conduct a hazard assessment to discover all of the safety hazards in your workplace. Then, you can inform your employees about the hazards the JHSC found. 

For all of your workplace health and safety training contact Bullivant Health + Safety.