Ontario Now to Permit Accreditation of ‘Health and Safety Management Systems’

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A bill in Ontario that makes changes to many different statutes recently received Royal Assent. Among other things, Bill 70, the Building Ontario Up for Everyone Act (Budget Measures), 2016 amends the OHS Act to give the Chief Prevention Officer (CPO) the power to accredit “health and safety management systems” and give recognition to employers that use such accredited systems. Here’s an overview of the OHS elements of Bill 70, which are contained in Schedule 16.

THE BILL

Key Dates: The Bill received Royal Assent on Dec. 8, 2016. The amendments to the OHS Act related to health and safety management systems took effect on that date.

Key Elements: The key elements of the amendments include the following:

Definition. The Bill defines “health and safety management system” as a coordinated system of procedures, processes and other measures that’s designed to be implemented by employers to promote continuous improvement in occupational health and safety.

Accreditation. The Bill gives numerous powers to the CPO as to health and safety management systems, including the power to establish (and amend) standards that a health and safety management system must meet to become accredited. In addition, the CPO may accredit a health and safety management system if it meets these standards. The CPO may also require any person seeking an accreditation, or who’s the subject of an accreditation, to provide whatever information, records or accounts the CPO requires, and authorize the CPO to make such inquiries and examinations as he considers necessary. An accreditation is valid for the period that the CPO specifies in the accreditation. And the CPO may revoke or amend an accreditation.

Recognition. In addition to accreditation, the Bill also gives the CPO the power to recognize an employer if the employer satisfies the CPO that:

  • It’s a certified user of an accredited health and safety management system in its workplace or workplaces; and
  • Its system meets any applicable criteria as established or amended by the CPO.

Such a recognition is valid for the period that the CPO specifies in the recognition. And the CPO may revoke or amend a recognition.

Publishing. Lastly, the CPO must publish the standards for accreditation of health and safety management systems and the criteria for recognition of employers after establishing or amending them. The CPO may also publish or otherwise make available to the public information relating to accredited health and safety management systems and employers given recognition, including the names of the systems and employers.

ANALYSIS

Although the changes made by Bill 70 are now in effect, they won’t have any real impact until the CPO establishes and releases the standards for accredited health and safety management systems and criteria for recognition for such systems. (There are OHS management system standards available, including one from the CSA, that the CPO could use as models or incorporate into regulations.) But even without those standards and criteria, unions have already objected to the OHS changes in Bill 70, although the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals applauded them. One concern is that workplaces with accredited health and safety management systems won’t be subject to MOL inspections. In fact, during the debate on Bill 70, the contents of an email from MOL staff to labour and injured workers’ advocates was mentioned. That email said, “Businesses who set up a superior example when it comes to health and safety standards and compliance should be rewarded for their efforts, while others should be incentivized to follow their example. This program would recognize employers who implement superior occupational health and safety management systems, highlighting the great work that they are doing to protect Ontario workers and reduce the burden of unnecessary processes such as routine inspections. We would still investigate complaints and incidents.”

We’ll have to wait and see exactly what the CPO’s standards will be for accredited health and safety management systems and how the MOL plans to handle accredited and/or recognized systems in enforcing the OHS laws. One thing that’s clear, however, is that having accredited or recognized health and safety management system isn’t required—it’s optional (unlike an OHS program).

UPDATE: We asked the MOL via its Facebook page, “Now that Bill 70 has passed, when can we expect the CPO to release standards for accredited health and safety management systems and criteria for recognition of such systems?”

The MOL’s response: “We will be holding an extensive consultation in order to allow the ministry to develop the accreditation standard and employer recognition program. The consultation will be held with the public and interested stakeholders, including labour and employers, to ensure that all voices and concerns are heard. Topics we’ll be seeking feedback on include the proposed draft accreditation standard and its content, the framework as well as a potential incentive framework.”