It's the law! Mandatory awareness training for employees and supervisors

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

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Government offers free workbooks and resources to help employers prepare for new legislation

Is your organization prepared to meet the new mandatory workplace health and safety training standards expected to become law in 2014? This in-depth look at the new training requirements for the province of Ontario will help your organization be well prepared before the deadline.

Overview: Evolution of health and safety laws

Ever since the 1884 Ontario Factories Act, laws regulating health and safety in Ontario have steadily evolved. A recent turning point was the tragic workplace incident on Christmas Eve 2009 in Toronto where four construction workers lost their lives and another was seriously injured when the high-rise scaffold they were using collapsed. The Ministry of Labour (MOL) appointed an Expert Advisory Panel – made up of province-wide representatives from organized labour, employers, and the academic community – to review Ontario’s occupational health and safety system. 

One year later in December 2010, the panel released its report with 46 recommendations – one of which was mandatory health and safety awareness training for all Ontario workers and supervisors. All of the recommendations in the Dean Report can be found in Bill 160, Occupational Health and Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2011, which is expected to become law sometime in 2014, however, training guides are available now to give employers and trainers a view of the minimum training requirements – particularly for supervisors.

2013-2014 legislative elements that most directly affect employers

The report recommendation for mandatory health and safety training is the one that most directly affects employers. Organizations must ensure that all workers and supervisors receive entry-level workplace health and safety training including rights and responsibilities and the role of the Joint Health and Safety Committee.

Although the majority of employers understand that optimum workplace safety is associated with optimum productivity, statistics continue to show that new and young workers in Ontario are still four times more likely to be injured on the job during the first month of employment than at any other time. New workers include both young workers aged 14 to 24 years, as well as those aged 25 and older who have been on the job for less than six months, or assigned to a new job. 

A study last year by the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) found that there is a persistent higher injury risk for new workers – noticeable over a ten-year period – suggesting that workplaces need to do more to ensure new workers get the training and supervision they need.

Supervisor discussing safety with a group of workers

Increasing awareness of workplace health and safety

To create the new training material, a working group was drawn from the province’s four main health and safety associations with diverse sector expertise from health care to mining, the Workers Health and Safety Centre, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, along with the Ministry’s own policy and development branches. The materials were tested with worker and employer focus groups and then piloted in workplaces. E-learning versions are nearing completion and are expected to be available this month. 

There are currently a number of free resources that companies can access online to comply with the new legislation expected to take effect by July of 2014. A mandatory poster, training guides and workbooks for companies are all available from MOL and Service Ontario – both online and as printed hard copies. 

Training material links

Worker – Employer Guide

Worker – Workbook

Supervisor – Employer Guide

Supervisor - Workbook

Timelines for inspection and enforcement 

The MOL prevention poster is already mandatory in the workplace with inspectors enforcing compliance as of October 1, 2012. Enforcement of the mandatory training program will most likely begin July 2014.

Equivalency training programs and record-keeping

Many employers already offer training and awareness programs that meet or exceed the MOL mandatory training requirements. An equivalency checklist is being prepared by the ministry to help employers determine if their programs qualify. Either way, employers need to keep records to confirm worker participation in mandatory training or its equivalent.

“There is the provision that if they have training of their own or from an HSA [Health and Safety Association], that meets or exceeds the objectives of the MOL programs, they will be in compliance,” says John Levesque, with program and product development at Workplace Safety North, and member of the working group that helped develop the new training material.

“So, it’s mandatory in the sense that workers and supervisors will have to participate in either the MOL training or an equivalent version of it – and keep a record of it. If a Ministry of Labour inspector walks into a workplace once this new regulation is in force, the employer will have to show some record of their workers and supervisors having taken that training or the equivalent. 

“It’s basically legislative awareness, and the course acquaints workers and supervisors with the Act and the regulations. That’s basically what this training is all about: telling people there is an ‘Occupational Health and Safety Act’ and it includes a number of duties for workers, supervisors, and employers. 

“The free workbook is a really good information resource on top of being a training manual,” adds Levesque. “I believe the hope is that workers and supervisors will hang on to this booklet, and if they’re ever in doubt about something – they can refer to it.”

What’s in the new training workbooks?

The workbooks – one for supervisors and one for workers – provide straightforward information regarding workplace health and safety. Both offer context on the importance of worker health and safety; raise awareness by listing the most common workplace hazards in Ontario; and provide a comprehensive contact list of provincial health and safety resources.

Worker Workbook: Worker Health and Safety Awareness in 4 Steps

The Worker Health and Safety Awareness in 4 Steps workbook clearly states the duties and rights of the worker:

Duties of the worker

Here are some of the things the OHSA [Occupational Health and Safety Act] says every worker has to do as part of their job:

MOL Worker Health and Safety Awareness Workbook

1. Follow the law and the workplace health and safety policies and procedures. 

2. Always wear or use the protective equipment that the employer requires.

3. Work and act in a way that won’t hurt you or any other worker.

4. Report any hazard you find in the workplace to your supervisor. 


Rights of the worker

The OHSA also gives workers three important rights:

1.The right to know about workplace hazards and what to do about them.

2. The right to participate in solving workplace health and safety problems.

3.The right to refuse work that they believe is unsafe.


Top 5 workplace hazards in Ontario

The training material raises awareness with clear descriptions and examples of the most common hazards in Ontario workplaces: 

1. Repeating the same movements over and over, especially if you are in an awkward position or you use a lot of force. Think of someone who bends down all day, or someone who lifts heavy things over and over again, especially above the shoulders or below the knees. 

2. Slipping, tripping or falling. Think of something as simple as spilled coffee on the floor, a cluttered work area, or a raised platform with no guardrails. 

3. Working near motorized vehicles. Think of being hit by a dump truck that is backing up on a work site or someone getting hit by a forklift truck on a loading dock.

4. Using or working near machinery. Over the years, many workers have been killed or seriously injured by the equipment they operated.

5. Workplace violence. It can and does happen in many workplaces – in fact Canada rates fourth worst with respect to workplace violence and harassment.


You are your brother and sister’s keeper

The mandatory training program reinforces the Internal Responsibility System, a safety philosophy that emphasizes one’s duty to speak up and help resolve safety concerns in the workplace – in other words, always be looking out for the health and safety of yourself and your co-workers. 

Handy safety checklist

“Always be on the lookout for hazards to yourself or others,” the booklet states. “Before you start your work day, ask yourself questions like:

1. Is any of the machinery broken?

2. Are there warning labels or signs?

3. Is there any moving equipment I could get caught in?

4. Is there something I could slip or trip on?

5. Do I need protective equipment?

6. Do I know how to do this job safely?”

Workers are asked to think of additional questions for their own personal checklist, such as, ‘Is there another worker nearby who could get hurt by what I’m doing?’ and ‘Is this task more than I can physically handle?’


Supervisor Workbook: Supervisor Health and Safety Awareness in 5 Steps

The Supervisor Health and Safety Awareness in 5 Steps takes a more in-depth look at workplace safety as well as strongly reinforcing the supervisor’s position as role model with responsibility for monitoring and enforcing safety regulations. 

Supervisor duties are very clearly spelled out:

Under the OHSA, every supervisor is also considered to be a worker and has the same workplace duties and rights as a worker. But the OHSA also gives you specific duties related to your role as a supervisor, including:

1. Telling workers about hazards and dangers and responding to their concerns; 

2. Showing workers how to work safely and making sure they follow the law, and the workplace health and safety policies and procedures;

3. Making sure workers wear and use the right protective equipment;

4. Doing everything reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers from being hurt or getting a work-related illness.

Know the hazards in your workplace

One of your jobs as a supervisor is to help plan and organize work. This is a big job. To do it well, you need to understand the work and the hazards associated with it. You also need to know how to eliminate or control those hazards and to make sure the health and safety program implemented in your workplace is effective.

What to do when you see a workplace hazard

The supervisor’s training guide offers a detailed ‘RACE’ hazard management system which stands for Recognize, Assess, Control and Evaluate. A handy reference chart provides a consistent course of action:

RECOGNIZE where there are potential hazards in the workplace. 

• Watch the work as it is being done.

• Talk to workers about the work and the areas where work happens.

• Participate in workplace inspections.

• Look at reports and records that your workplace has about the work.

• Listen to the concerns workers have about the work they’re doing.

ASSESS the hazard. You need to understand how likely it is that a worker will get hurt or made sick by the hazard. To assess the hazard, you ask these questions:

• How does the hazard compare to legislation, standards and guidelines?

• How can the worker get hurt or sick?

• How likely is the hazard to affect worker health and safety?

• How badly could the worker get hurt or sick?

CONTROL the hazards by looking for ways to get rid of the hazard or to make the job safer:

• The safest thing to do is to remove the hazard.

• If removing the hazard is not possible, look for ways to prevent workers from coming in contact with the hazard, such as separating the hazard from the worker.

If neither of the above solutions protects the worker, workers can use protective equipment, devices and other materials to help keep them safe. It’s your obligation as a supervisor to make sure workers use this equipment where required by the OHSA and Regulations or by the employer.

EVALUATE how well the hazard controls are working:

• Talk about the work to the workers who report to you.

• Watch them do their work.

• Listen to what they say and look for ways to improve health and safety

The final message for supervisors is to ‘be a role model,’ be approachable to workers, and send the right message by practising what you preach.


Resource links for health and safety material

Free resources from WSN

Free resources from Ministry of Labour

Worker – Employer Guide

Worker – Workbook

Supervisor – Employer Guide

Supervisor - Workbook


About WSN: Workplace Safety North believes illnesses and injuries can and must be prevented. An independent not-for-profit health and safety organization, WSN is a leading provider of health and safety training and consulting for Ontario mining, forestry, paper, printing and converting sectors. WSN was formed by the 2010 amalgamation of three key safety associations: Mines and Aggregates Safety and Health Association (MASHA), Ontario Forestry Safe Workplace Association (OFSWA), and the Pulp and Paper Health and Safety Association (PPHSA). For more information, please visit

Workplace Safety North

Every worker, home safe and healthy.