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Ontario’s top 10 health & safety violations: learn how to avoid them


January 21, 2020
By WSPS

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Paper mill factory workers. Photo: agnormark/Adobe StockPhoto: agnormark/Adobe Stock

The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development’s latest top 10 list of health and safety violations casts a bright light on opportunities that many Ontario workplaces may be missing.

“Information like this offers a starting point for companies that want to improve,” says Donna Beaudette, account manager for Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS), an Ontario non-profit committed to protecting the safety of workers. “Investing in health and safety generates returns that exceed the investment.”

Where workplaces went wrong

Based on the number of orders issued for contraventions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and associated regulations, these are the top 10 health and safety issues and violations identified by the ministry in 2018:

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1. workplace violence and harassment (14,000 orders issued)
2. falls protection (9,500 orders issued)
3. lack of personal protective equipment (8,600 orders issued)
4. administrative (7,700 orders issued)
5. health and safety representative and joint health and safety committee (7,100 orders issued)
6. improper access and egress (7,000 orders issued)
7. basic occupational health and safety awareness training (6,600 orders issued)
8. housekeeping and work surfaces (4,700)
9. lack of equipment, material and protective device maintenance (4,600)
10. lack of machine/equipment guarding (4,400)

“Not all workplaces have the skillset or trained personnel to know everything about health and safety,” says Beaudette. She suggests workplaces review the list to identify opportunities for improvement and offers six ways to move forward.

Inform yourself

1. Know what legal requirements your workplace needs to comply with. Ensure someone within your company has responsibility for health and safety. Health and safety requirements are designed to prevent injuries. They also help prevent business disruption and loss.

2. Understand what types of risks are present in your workplace. Conducting a hazard assessment will help you identify gaps in your health and safety efforts, set priorities and allocate resources where they are needed most. Beaudette recommends a comprehensive assessment, however if that’s not feasible, you can start with where your top injuries are occurring.

3. Build your knowledge of hazards and best practices. There are many ways to go about this. WSPS Safety Connection sessions showcase timely topics in locations across the province at no cost. WSPS’ regional and national conferences offer multiple learning sessions in one setting.

Explore opportunities for improvement

4. Take a look at your health and safety culture. Reflect on questions such as: Does production take priority over everything else? Is health and safety part of the company’s mission and values statement? Does senior management talk about health and safety with supervisors and workers? Do supervisors deliver regular health and safety talks? Does the company discipline workers for health and safety infractions?

5. Assess your joint health and safety committee’s effectiveness. Think about how active the committee is. Does it have the support it needs? Have committee members received the training they need to fulfil their duties? Could they benefit from training in any of the areas identified in the top 10 list? Ask the committee to review the list and watch for items on the list during inspections.

6. Assess your supervisors’ effectiveness. Do they know what they need to know? Are they aware of their health and safety responsibilities and duties? Do they have the training required to meet them? Is health and safety built into their performance appraisals?

“What companies may not realize is that investing in health and safety will ultimately generate returns that exceed their investment,” says Beaudette.

This article was prepared by Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS), which has helping Ontario businesses improve health and safety for over 100 years. For new legislative and regulatory requirements, check out WSPS’ Legislation Tracker. For more information, visit www.wsps.ca or contact WSPS at customercare@wsps.ca.