Ontario OHS Reform Bill 160 Sent to Committee

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The second reading of Bill 160, Occupational Health and Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2011, concluded on March 29. Then the Assembly sent the bill to committee. Here are the highlights from the final day of debate.

10 Changes NDP Wants to Bill 160

Michael Prue, a member of the New Democratic Party, first recounted stories from injured workers he heard at a recent event, all of whom felt that the current system had let them down. He then listed the 10 changes that would have to be made to Bill 160 for the NDP to even consider supporting it:

  1. The powers of the chief prevention officer need to be clearly articulated in the bill so that there’s a clear accountability and authority to effectively lead and manage the prevention system;
  2. The minister must be required to give the prevention council and the chief prevention officer 30 days’ notice and reasons for any intent to change the delegated authorities;
  3. The minister must be required to consult with the chief prevention officer of intent to make a significant change to the prevention system, including exercising the minister’s powers under Sections 22.4, 22.5 and 22.6;
  4. A statement similar to Section 5 of the Clean Drinking Water Act should be included to require the minister to consider recommendations of the chief prevention officer and the prevention council in exercising the minister’s powers and duties;
  5. The prevention council must be required to be composed of an equal number of members representing employers and trade unions and the number of other members appointed to the prevention council should be restricted to no more than one third of the council’s membership;
  6. A statement needs to be included under the minister’s duties that states that the bill’s purpose is to promote health and safety in workplaces and prevent and reduce the occurrence of workplace injuries and disease;
  7. The documentation that a co-chair of a JHSC must provide to an employer under Section 7(1) of Bill 160 must be reduced to make it less onerous to exercise this right;
  8. An inspector must be permitted to appear before the Ontario Labour Relations Board in situations where he has direct evidence of an alleged reprisal on a worker;
  9. The threshold for the Office of the Employer Adviser to provide support to small business in Section 50 reprisals should be changed to 50 employees, rather than the 100 set out in Bill 160; and
  10. The wording in Section 12 must be made clearer because some stakeholders have commented that stating that “a failure to comply with a code of practice is not a breach of the legal requirement” doesn’t make it clear that there’s an opportunity to consider other practices instead of the code.

Naturally, several members of the Assembly had comments on these suggested changes and on the bill in general. The members then voted 73-6 to agree to second reading. Bill 160 was then sent to the Standing Committee on Social Policy.

What Happens Next

A Legislative Committee is a small working group of members of the Assembly responsible for detailed consideration of any matter that it’s authorized to review. A committee may hold public hearings at which Ontario citizens can comment on or provide evidence relating to the matter under review.

The three most common ways in which individuals and organizations can participate in the committee process are by:

  • Appearing as a committee witness;
  • Submitting written materials; or
  • Attending committee hearings.

As the Standing Committee on Social Policy just got Bill 160 yesterday, it hasn’t yet announced any public hearings or other proceedings as to the bill. We’ll let you know when the committee takes any actions as to Bill 160—and how you can add your two cents to the discussion.