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Ontario ministry begins implementing recommendations of Dean Report

| www.cos-mag.com
Charles Sousa

The Ministry of Ontario has initiated the process of implementing the recommendations made by the Dean Report with a series of amendments aimed at centralizing health and safety functions and increasing prevention.

Ontario is taking action to improve the province's safety system and increase protection for workers, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Labour.

The province is proposing amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act. These amendments are in response to recommendations provided by the Expert Panel on Occupational Health and Safety, which, if passed, would see a number of significant changes made to the scope and structure of the ministry's responsibilities.

The amendments would establish the Ministry of Labour as the lead for accident prevention, transferring it from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), who currently handles such functions. They would also see the appointment of a new chief prevention officer responsible for coordinating and aligning the prevention system, as well as create a new prevention council— with representatives from labour, employers, and safety experts— to advise the chief prevention Officer and the minister.

The proposed amendments would also give the minister of labour oversight of the province's health and safety associations. The minister would also oversee the education, training and promotion of workplace health and safety.

Minister Charles Sousa lauded the progress being made in a statement. "Our government, along with labour and business leaders, are on the same page," he said. "We all want workers to be healthy and go home safe after work. These proposed amendments would help prevent injuries and create productive workplaces, and that is good news for all Ontarians."

Greg Dennis, a spokesperson for the minister's office, says he expects the process of securing the amendments to be finished relatively soon. He notes, though, that there are still some steps that needed to be completed before the amendments become official. "I can't really give you a timeframe," he added "but it'll move along quickly enough."

Dennis adds that these sorts of systemic improvements take time. "There was a lot in the Dean recommendations that required legislative amendments," he notes. "We said right from the get-go back in December that we would be introducing legislation to get approval or to enable to do things, like set up a prevention council; to create a chief prevention officer; to transfer the responsibility for the prevention system to the Ministry of Labour."

Dennis says one of the big benefits of these amendments will be the centralization of services and responsibilities under one legislative body. It's a shift he believes will ultimately benefit all parties involved. "We thought it would be more efficient and coordinated if prevention was under the same roof with our enforcement and inspections services. It's a real coordinated and integrated approach that I think will benefit the workers in Ontario, and the businesses, as well."

More particularly, he believes the integration of prevention with inspections could provide a great means of creating awareness and promoting safe work practices. "This way, when the inspectors go out they'll have direct knowledge of our prevention systems," he points out, "so enforcement and prevention can work hand in hand. When our inspectors go out there, not only can they ensure everything is being followed, they can also exercise some prevention measures at the same time."

Headed by Tony Dean, the expert panel was appointed in early 2010 and included representatives from labour, employers, and academia with workplace health and safety expertise. During the course of its review, the panel received more than 400 responses in over 50 meetings with stakeholders across the province, and presented its finding in a report in December of 2010.

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