The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires all companies to prepare and review, at least annually, a written occupational health and safety policy, and develop and maintain a program to implement the policy. Also, many larger employers now require contractors to have their health and safety programs verified by a competent third party within six (6) months of starting work at their operations.
Safe Workplace Ontario is a voluntary recognition program that provides participating firms with all the essentials for setting up and implementing an effective health and safety program. Firms continuously monitor and improve their health and safety programs and procedures through an annual audit process.
Safe Workplace Ontario program
Safe Workplace Ontario designation program (SWO) provides all the essentials for setting up and implementing an effective health and safety program; then, through a voluntary annual audit process overseen by Workplace Safety North (WSN), firms continuously monitor and improve their health and safety programs and procedures.
Benefits of SWO designation
- Helps you develop and maintain a solid workplace health and safety program.
- Annual recognition confirms your health and safety program has met Safe Workplace Ontario requirements.
- Before awarding contracts, many companies require suppliers and contractors to have a workplace health and safety program in place that has been verified by an independent third party.
- An excellent resource leads you through the typical policies you legally need to have in place.
- Provides you with guidance material, including a memory stick with policy templates you can customize to meet your specific needs.
- Health and safety professionals provide coaching and guidance throughout program set-up and evaluation.
- Includes field inspection – WSN assesses your workplace health and safety program – both on paper and on-site to ensure consistent safety culture.
- Peace of mind knowing your organization is diligent in ensuring the health and safety of all staff, contractors, clients, and visitors
How does SWO program work?
The SWO certification program provides specific health and safety standards to guide participants in their efforts to eliminate injuries and illnesses in their workplaces. These standards were developed in close consultation with industry representatives.
Each section of the SWO Resource Manual consists of the standard itself, reference to applicable legislation, company procedures for establishing and meeting the standard, and leading practices for implementing the standard in the workplace.
Program participants achieve SWO designation when each of the applicable standards in the resource manual has been established in their workplace, and an on-site validation audit has been satisfactorily completed by an accredited third party.
Getting started with SWO designation
Steps to take if your company is new to the Safe Workplace Ontario (SWO) program.
- Contact your local Workplace Safety North Health and Safety Specialist for assistance at the start of your company health and safety program development and review process. At workplacesafetynorth.ca, WSN health and safety specialists are searchable online by industry sector, specialty, region, and language.
- Register, purchase and download the SWO Resource Manual Version 5.0 - see links below in 'SWO Member – Resource Centre' section for new and existing members. By purchasing the manual, you are automatically registered in the program.
- Once you feel your company health and safety program is up to date and fully implemented, advise your WSN Health and Safety Specialist.
- A WSN Health and Safety Specialist will contact your organization to arrange a field evaluation and conduct a SWO audit including a review of your health and safety program using the sector-specific WSN Physical Conditions Safe Work Practices Checklist form.
- WSN will ensure that the initial program evaluation and physical conditions inspection is carried out to allow new applicants to achieve program designation within two months of being advised the program is available to be audited.
- When your company meets program standards, SWO designation will be granted. Note: In those cases where deficiencies are identified, the applicant must address them before the WSN Health and Safety Specialist conducts a follow-up consultation. The health and safety specialist will leave a detailed report of their findings after each consultation, and provide assistance as needed to meet the program standards.
- Once the health and safety specialist is satisfied your company meets standards, they will submit a SWO designation to WSN head office to confirm achievement for that year.
- Upon notification by the WSN Health and Safety Specialist, participants receive a wall plaque and current year plate to confirm the company’s SWO achievement. The plaque can be hung in a prominent location to demonstrate to visitors and employees alike the successful completion of your SWO designation program.
SWO designation process
- The first step involves having documented proof your firm’s standards and procedures meet or exceed the basic health and safety requirements established by the SWO program. Your company reviews and upgrades the existing health and safety program to meet SWO Resource Manual standards, with the coaching and assistance of a WSN health and safety specialist.
- The second step involves an on-site physical evaluation of the workplace by a WSN health and safety specialist to ensure no ‘A’ classification hazards – those likely to cause serious injury or death – are identified in the workplace, and that leading practices have been implemented. The evaluation process and related documents are available for download in the Resource Centre.
- When both criteria are met, your organization achieves SWO designation and wall plaque display. This is an annual process, which helps ensure continuous evolution of workplace health and safety; plus it keeps you up to date on legislative changes to workplace health and safety in Ontario. At this time, you’ll also be advised Advise of any new requirements and applicable fees for the upcoming fiscal year.
SWO designation does not mean a company is immune from orders or charges from Ontario Ministry of Labour inspections. Although SWO designation goes a long way toward ensuring your company is fulfilling its duties and responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, not every legal issue is covered by the SWO program. If you have any specific concerns or questions, Workplace Safety North health and safety specialists are available for guidance and support.
There are three types of fees for the SWO certification program: one-time registration, annual designation fee, and an occasional resource manual upgrade cost.
New SWO member registration, which includes the SWO Resource Manual Version 5.0, is $250.
Annual SWO designation fee
20+ employees $250
1-19 employees $150
SWO Resource Manual
Program materials are revised and updated to reflect new legislative requirements as well evolving equipment, processes, and leading practices; new modules include safe driving program, as well as violence and harassment protection policy.
Each year, the SWO designation process occurs within the calendar year (January 1st to December 31st). Please keep in mind there is a 60-day response time for on-site audit requests.
- Participating companies designated by the Safe Workplace Ontario program must make information available as part of ongoing program maintenance.
- As part of both your ongoing and annual workplace health and safety review, participating companies voluntarily take remedial action when and where necessary and appropriate.
- Participating companies revise programs in the event of significant changes in program levels such as a substantial increase in the number of employees or fundamental changes to operating equipment or practices.
- WSN health and safety specialists will conduct spot checks of participating company’s field operations and auditing of industry health and safety programs, when and where appropriate, to ensure the submitted reports are accurate and the company still meets the health and safety program standards.
Congratulations for being actively engaged in workplace health and safety!
SWO Member – Resource Centre
Click on the links below to download the appropriate guides, checklists, information, and forms. See above section 'Getting started with SWO certification' for more information.
SWO Program Guide (MS Word)
SWO Self-Evaluation Form (MS Word)
SWO Program Timelines Calendar Year (MS Word)