Health and safety primer for small business

Monday, March 03, 2014

Business Health and Safety Information Brochure

Is your business compliant with new mandatory health and safety awareness training? 

Cover page of WSN small business safety brochureGrowing up, most of us were taught that it was always better to be safe than sorry. And now, as a business owner or senior manager, you carry that same attitude into your workplace. You want prospective clients and employees to know that you run a healthy workplace where safety is a priority. You want to be free from the emotional burden of having injuries, illnesses, and fatalities happen at your workplace. 

Man standing in store holding 'open' sign

A high-performing workplace safety program also gives your business a competitive advantage. With fewer disruptions and delays in production and services, a strong safety culture means a safe and healthy workplace, improved customer service, steady production, and increased profits.

So you’ll definitely want your organization to be prepared to meet the new mandatory workplace health and safety awareness training standards – already law – to be enforced effective July 1, 2014. This is the perfect time to plan and organize your health and safety training to position your company for steady production and future opportunities. 

What Ontario law says: Occupational Health and Safety Act

  • Workplaces with 20 or more regularly employed workers must have a Joint Health and Safety Committee.
  • Workplaces with more than five regular employees must have a designated health and safety representative.
  • Workplaces with five or fewer regular employees do not need a written health and safety policy, however, if there’s a critical injury or fatality, or even a visit from a Ministry of Labour inspector, the business owner is still required to demonstrate and document that people are working safely, and that a disciplinary process is ready to implement.

With the 2014 enforcement of new mandatory health and safety awareness training, a call to Workplace Safety North can help ensure your business meets or exceeds legislative compliance. 

How the law affects your business 

Some business owners incorrectly believe health and safety legislation does not apply to them. For example, owners who opt out of WSIB coverage sometimes make the assumption they can also opt out of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), however, that is not the case; they are two separate pieces of legislation.

Top 5 health and safety tips for small business

Group shot of a variety of workersAs a small business, you need to keep your health and safety processes simple and informal through management walkabouts, quick staff meetings, a handwritten memo on file, notes in a log book, training records – all viable strategies if inspectors ask if you’ve been meeting your legal obligations. 

You can implement other effective, yet uncomplicated ways to communicate with staff and keep your business safe and healthy:

  1. Make health and safety part of your everyday operations – be a safety champion.
  2. Conduct regular “quick talks” on health and safety with staff, use safe operating procedures, checklists, or material safety data sheets as topic guides.
  3. Perform regular “safety observation checks” by watching an employee work for two minutes – reinforce what was done well, and coach on improvements.
  4. Ask staff – who often see what managers don’t –  to identify hazards.
  5. Ask a staff member to volunteer as a health and safety champion, and help train new workers.


WSN field consultants and ergonomic health specialists are located across Ontario in or near your community. With an in-depth understanding of top workplace hazards, WSN safety experts can help you identify, assess, and control hazards specific to your business, and provide health and safety advice and information. 

In-class and Online Training

WSN health and safety experts have a wealth of knowledge and experience. Many of these experts hold various designations such as the Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (CRSP). 

Incentive Program

If your business is registered with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), your firm may be eligible for a 5 percent premium rebate for successfully completing three 4-hour health and safety training sessions that comprise WSIB’s Safe Communities Incentive Program (SCIP). 

The WSIB defines “small business” as any firm that pays less than $90,000 in annual WSIB premiums. This free, easy-to-follow program helps business owners and senior managers understand their responsibilities and implement an effective health and safety program.

People at business meeting

Free Workplace Safety Resources 

Visit to access hazard alerts, articles, presentations, research, videos, and subscribe to the monthly Every Worker newsletter to receive the latest news and developments in workplace safety.

  • Free downloads can be found on the ‘Resources’ webpage including general safety talks, posters, guides and checklists.
  • Social media: has a fully functional website and mobile site. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube for the latest health and safety news
  • Monthly e-newsletter features important health and safety news and information, including legislative changes, Ministry of Labour inspection blitzes and resources, hazards alerts, and upcoming training sessions.

Additional Information and Resources

Health and safety checklist for small business owners

Ontario Business Health and Safety Brochure offers business owners and managers important health and safety information. 

Safe Communities Incentive Program offers an introduction to health and safety for businesses along with opportunity for WSIB rebates. 

Small business: advice, support services, regulations – Ontario government website provides and e-business toolkit, business permit-license search, as well as a list Small Business Enterprise Centres.

What Businesses Need to Know - Ministry of Labour provides basic information about workplace safety and employment standards. Toll-free assistance 1-800-531-5551 is available in 23 languages.