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Training on Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act: What is required?

A workplace may have particular hazards that could expose a worker to risk if proper training is not provided

By Stuart Rudner and Brittany Taylor

In Ontario, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) sets out numerous duties and responsibilities for all workplace parties, including employers and workers, to ensure that everyone can enjoy a safe and healthy work environment. One of the most fundamental duties of an employer is to ensure that “workers”, which includes both employees and contractors (among others), are provided with appropriate workplace health and safety training.  

The OHSA describes this as an obligation to provide workers with “information, instruction and supervision... to protect the health or safety of the worker”, and also the duty to “acquaint a worker or a person in authority over a worker with any hazard in the work and in the handling, storage, use, disposal and transport of any article, device, equipment or a biological, chemical or physical agent”. The OHSA also requires employers to provide a worker with information and instruction on the contents of its Workplace Harassment and Workplace Violence policies and programs.

In this blog post, we will explore these training requirements in more detail as well as how an employer can comply with its obligations in this regard.

General OHSA training

Regulation 297/13 under the OHSA requires an employer to ensure that all workers complete basic occupational health and safety awareness training which provides an employee with the following information:

• the duties and rights of workers under the OHSA

• the duties of employers and supervisors under the OHSA

• the roles of health and safety representatives and joint health and safety committees under the OHSA

• the roles of the Ministry, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and entities designated under section 22.5 of the OHSA with respect to occupational health and safety

• common workplace hazards

• the requirements set out in Regulation 860 (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)) with respect to information and instruction on controlled products

• occupational illness, including latency.

Workers who act as supervisors must complete similar basic occupational health and safety awareness training, with the additional requirement that the training provide instruction on:

• how to recognize, assess and control workplace hazards, and evaluate those controls

• sources of information on occupational health and safety.

While employers must ensure that this training has been provided to workers and supervisors, they are not required to provide the training directly. The ministry has developed free resources which provide basic health and safety awareness training for both workers and supervisors, accessible via their website. Workers and supervisors who complete these programs are provided with a certificate which can be provided to the employer as proof that the training was completed. In that regard, if the worker or supervisor has already completed the basic health and safety awareness training prior to commencing work for the employer (i.e. at their previous job) and can provide the employer with proof of same, the employer is not required to re-train the worker. In other words, the training does not expire once completed.

We recommend that health and safety awareness training certificates, or other proof of appropriate training, are kept in an employee’s personnel file where they can be easily accessed if an employer is required to demonstrate compliance with its obligations in this regard.

Training with respect to specific workplace hazards

Every workplace is unique, and may have particular hazards that could expose a worker to risk if proper training is not provided. In that regard, employers should be aware of the fact that the general health and safety awareness training is meant to introduce workers to basic occupational health and safety concepts only. Employers may need to provide additional training to employees customized for their workplace if there are unique hazards that need to be addressed (for example, providing training on the use of safety equipment or on the handling of dangerous materials).

In addition, the OHSA contains detailed training requirements relating to certain specific hazards that a worker may face in the workplace, such as working at heights. Employers should consult the OHSA and its Regulations to determine if further training requirements may apply in their workplace.

Workplace violence and harassment training

An employer is required to provide a worker with information and instruction appropriate for the worker on the contents of its Workplace Harassment and Violence Policy and Program. The ministry’s Code of Practice with respect to workplace harassment suggests that the following information be included within the workplace harassment training program:

• what conduct is considered workplace harassment, including workplace sexual harassment, and how to recognize it

• how and to whom to report an incident of workplace harassment

• how the employer will investigate and deal with an incident or complaint of workplace harassment

• how the employer will report the results of the investigation to the worker who allegedly experienced workplace harassment and the alleged harasser, if the alleged harasser is a worker of the employer.

The training provided must be appropriate to the duties and responsibilities of the worker. In this regard, supervisors and managers, anyone who may conduct investigations pursuant to the policy, and members of the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representatives will require additional training.

All employers have an obligation to ensure that employees receive both general occupational health and safety training as well as specific training related to any hazards present in the workplace. In certain cases, these additional training requirements will be set out in detail in the OHSA and its regulations. In other cases, an employer will need to use their judgment to ensure that a worker has sufficient knowledge about a potential hazard to mitigate against the risk of injury, and to ensure that the worker knows what to do if an accident occurs.

Finally, employers must ensure that all workers receive training with respect to its Workplace Harassment and Workplace Violence Policy and Program. As this training will be unique to each employer’s policies and programs, it will need to be completed even in cases where an employee has received similar training in the past.

Brittany Tayor is a lawyer at Rudner Law in Toronto.

Stuart Rudner

Stuart Rudner
Stuart Rudner is the founder of Rudner Law, a firm specializing in employment law and mediation. He can be reached at stuart@rudnerlaw.ca, (416) 864-8500 or (905) 209-6999, and you can follow on Twitter @RudnerLaw.
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