Toronto Labour & Employment Lawyers Advising Employers and Employees on Occupational Health and Safety

Workplace health and safety in Ontario is largely governed by two pieces of legislation: the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act(WSIA).

The OHSA sets out minimum health and safety standards for all provincially regulated workplaces in Ontario. It is intended to protect workers against potential hazards at work, including physical hazards as well as harassment and violence. It sets out duties for all workplace parties and outlines workers’ rights.  It also outlines the consequences for parties who do not comply with their obligations, including significant fines and other penalties.

An employer can be subject to a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB),  a human rights complaint, or a lawsuit if a worker believes that the employer has not complied with its obligations under the OHSA. Litigating issues arising from the OHSA requires assistance from an employment lawyer with in-depth knowledge of the workplace safety regime in Ontario, and has experience representing clients in such matters.

At Mallins Law, we are dedicated practitioners of labour and employment law. Helping workers and employees is all that we do, and we do it well. We combine our proactive, preventative, and practical approach to workplace relations with significant advocacy experience to provide exceptional guidance and legal representation to our clients.

Responsibilities Under the OHSA 

Workers and employers share the responsibilities of maintaining a safe and healthy workplace. This includes having a joint health and safety committee (or health and safety representative) in place.

The joint health and safety committee or representative (depending on the size of the workplace), has the power to identify hazards in the workplace, make recommendations to the employer, and to investigate serious injuries as well as work refusals.

Ministry of Labour Inspectors 

The Ministry of Labour employs inspectors whose job it is to, among other things, enforce the OHSA. Inspectors have the power to:

  • Show up at a workplace and inspect it;
  • Issue orders where they notice any OHSA violations;
  • Investigate accidents and work refusals; and
  • Recommend prosecution where there are serious OHSA

Reprisals 

Section 50 of the OHSA states that a worker cannot be dismissed, suspended, disciplined, threatened or otherwise penalized in any way because that worker has attempted to assert their rights under the OHSA, has asked the employer to comply with their obligations under OHSA, has provided information to a Ministry of Labour inspector, or similar.

A worker who believes that he or she has been penalized for any of the above can file an unlawful reprisal application with the OLRB.

If the OLRB finds in favour of the workers, potential remedies include: reinstatement, payment of lost wages, and damages for any other financial losses the worker may have suffered.

Workplace Violence and Harassment 

Under the OHSA, employers have an obligation to maintain workplaces that are free of violence and harassment (including sexual harassment) by proactively addressing potential risks, having up to date policies in place, training employees on those policies, investigating and addressing complaints, and taking corrective action.

Joint health and safety committees and representatives have similar obligations with respect to workplace violence and harassment as they do with other safety hazards.

Employers can be subject to a human rights complaint or a lawsuit filed by employees who believe they have been subject to harassment or violence at work, and who believe their employer did not comply with its obligations in that regard. Employers can also be subject to fines and other penalties levied by a Ministry of Labour Inspector.

Penalties for Breaches of the OHSA 

Failure of an employer to comply with the OHSA can result in substantial fines and other serious consequences, including jail time.

Maximum penalties for OHSA breaches are:

  • A fine of up to $25,000 for an individual person and/or up to 12 months imprisonment;
  • A fine of up to $500,000 for a corporation.

Mallins Law: Knowledgeable Labour & Employment Lawyers Providing Proactive Guidance and Legal Representation in Occupational Health and Safety Matters 

If you are an employer and want to ensure that you are complying with all your obligations with respect to maintaining a safe workplace, or if you are a worker who believes that their right to a safe workplace has been violated or that your employer is not complying with their obligations, contact the Toronto employment lawyers at Mallins Law.

We believe, above all else, in providing our clients with the tools they need to be able to anticipate and respond to problems before they even arise, or if they do, before they escalate to the point where further intervention is required. We ensure that every client who comes to us is armed with all the information and resources they need to proactively address and eliminate potential problems and issues and to minimize their risk. Reach out to us online or at 647-792-0310 to schedule a consultation.