In January 2010, the Ontario Minister of Labour appointed Tony Dean as Chair of the Expert Advisory Panel to lead a review of the province’s OHS prevention and enforcement system. In December, the so-called Dean Panel released a report containing its recommendations. And the government just took its first concrete steps toward implementing these recommendations by introducing Bill 160, Occupational Health and Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2011, which received first reading on March 2, 2011. Here’s a look at the Bill’s proposed amendments to the OHS Act and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.
Overview of Proposed Changes
In general, the amendments in Bill 160 would, if passed:
- Establish the MOL as the lead for accident prevention, transferring it from the WSIB;
- Appoint a new Chief Prevention Officer to coordinate and align the prevention system;
- Create a new prevention council, with representatives from labour, employers and safety experts, to advise the Chief Prevention Officer and the Minister; and
- Give the Minister of Labour oversight of the province’s Health and Safety Associations and the education, training and promotion of workplace health and safety.
These changes basically address recommendations 1-10 in the Dean Report, which focus on better coordination and clarity regarding the roles of the different government agencies involved in health and safety.
For example, the Dean Report specifically recommended that the MOL should assume responsibility for the co-ordination of prevention program delivery. It also recommended the appointment of a Chief Prevention Officer, reporting to the MOL, to coordinate and align prevention system strategies, priorities and programs, and oversee Ontario’s Health and Safety Associations. And it recommended an appointed multi-stakeholder Prevention Council, which would advise the Chief Prevention Officer and the MOL with respect to setting strategic priorities and measuring the system’s progress.
Specific Changes to OHS Act
Bill 160 proposed both changes and additions to the current OHS Act, including:
- Section 4.1 (Minister’s powers), which specifies the Minister’s responsibility for the administration of the Act and sets out some of the Minister’s powers and duties for doing so, would be added to Part II and changed to let the Minister establish standards for training programs and to approve programs that meet the standards. It would also let the Minister establish standards that a person must meet in order to become an approved training provider and collect information about workers’ successful completion of approved training programs;
- Section 6 (Director’s powers) would be changed to authorize a Director to establish policies respecting the Act’s interpretation, administration and enforcement and to require an inspector to follow such policies;
- Section 7.6 (JHSC training), which allows the Minister to establish training and other requirements that a JHSC member must fulfil to become a certified member and to certify a committee member who meets the requirements, would be added to the Act;
- Section 8 (health & safety rep training) would be amended to require constructors or employers to ensure that health and safety reps get training to enable them to effectively exercise their powers and perform their duties;
- Section 9 (JHSC recommendations) would be changed to allow either JHSC co-chair to make written recommendations to a constructor or employer if the committee fails to reach a consensus after a good faith effort to do so;
- Part II.1 (Prevention Council, Chief Prevention Officer & designated entities) would be added to the Act. Within this new Part, Section 22.2 would require the Minister to establish a Prevention Council; Section 22.3 would require the Minister to appoint a Chief Prevention Officer; and Sections 22.4 to 22.7 would let the Minister designate an entity as a safe workplace association or as a medical clinic or training centre specializing in occupational health and safety matters if the entity meets the Minister’s standards;
- Part III.1 (Codes of practice) would be changed to let the Minister approve codes of practice as to both statutory and regulatory requirements and specify that compliance with the code is deemed to be compliance with the requirement, subject to any terms or conditions set out by the Minister;
- Section 50 (Reprisals) would be amended to let an inspector refer a matter to the Board when a worker claims that his employer has violated the prohibition against reprisals and when the matter can’t be dealt with by final and binding settlement by arbitration under a collective agreement or by the worker filing a complaint with the Board—provided that the worker consents to the referral;
- Section 50.1 (Office of Worker & Employer Advisers) would be added to the Act to prescribe functions for the Office of the Worker Adviser and Office of the Employer Advisor for the purposes of Part VI of the Act;
- Section 63 (Office of the Adviser employees) would be changed so that employees of the Office of the Worker Adviser or the Office of the Employer Adviser can’t be compelled to be witnesses in a civil suit or any proceeding regarding any information or material furnished to or obtained, made or received by them under the Act while acting within the scope of their employment; and
- Subsection 70(2) (Complementary regulations) would be amended to add complementary regulation-making authority.
Bill 160 also includes transitional and other minor changes to the OHS Act.
Changes to Workers’ Comp Law
In addition to changes to the OHS Act, Bill 160 proposes changes to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, including:
- Part II (Injury and Disease Prevention) would be repealed. The substance of Subsection 4 (2) and Section 10 of that Part, which deal with payments to constructions workers and first aid requirements, would be moved to another place in the Act; and
- Section 159 (Information sharing) would be changed to exempt information sharing agreements between the Board and the Ministry of Labour from the requirement that such agreements be approved by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.
If Bill 160 is enacted, most of the provisions will take effect when it receives Royal Assent with the following exceptions:
- Sections 6, 13, 14, 16, 17(1), 18(1) and 18(4) would take effect at a date specified by the Lieutenant Governor;
- Sections 1(2), 2, 5, 7, 8(2), 18(3), 19, 20, 22, 23(1), 23(2), 23(3), 24, 25, 26 and 28 would take effect on April 1, 2012 or an earlier date set by the Lieutenant Governor.
Implications of Bill 160
The first thing the government said after the Dean Report came out was that it would appoint a Chief Prevention Officer and Council—and it has made good on that promise with the introduction of Bill 160. It’s also laid the groundwork for the implementation of some of the Report’s other recommendations, such as those on training for JHSC members and health & safety reps and reprisals.
But more work needs to be done to implement the Report’s remaining recommendations, which will likely be addressed through regulations. Let’s see how quickly the MOL starts putting together draft regulations.