Employer Fines and Health and Safety Responsibilities

How would you grade yourself as an employer?

How well are you satisfying your duties under the OH&S Act?

One quick way to tell is to read through Section 25 (1) and (2) of the Act.  These requirements haven’t changed much in the last twenty years and are a good mix of broad, general, regulation-dependent duties in subsection (1) and precise, specific duties in subsection (2).
Think About It!

From time to time we report on court cases arising from Ministry of Labour charges, and always include information about what the infraction was and how large a fine the employer (and, increasingly, the supervisor) had to pay.  If you had the vague impression that this is happening more frequently than it used to, you’re right.
In the late 1990’s the Ontario Ministry of Labour obtained convictions in court on average 300 times per year, and the fines imposed following those convictions averaged about $ 5 million per year.  During the decade following the turn of the century, we all remember that there was a change in direction at the Ministry.  Additional inspectors were hired, we saw the introduction of the High Risk Initiative, where firms with poorer than average safety records were targeted for inspections, and we saw the introduction of Ministry blitzes, which addressed specific topics of concern in specific industry sectors.
How did this affect court activity?  Data for the last fiscal year reported (2008/2009 – the Ministry switched to reporting on fiscal years for 2005/2006) showed that convictions were up fourfold, to 1303 and fines had also increased, reaching a high of over $ 14 million.  Watching the media reports, it looks like increased court activity on the part of the Ministry continues.  Bottom line – charging, convicting and fining seems to be a well-used tool in the Ministry’s toolkit for making workplaces in Ontario safer