Time to Make Some Laws: Ontario OHS Reform Reaches Decisive Moment


The Dean Report is on the table. The next step is to turn its recommendations into proposed legislation. On Valentine’s Day, the Ontario MOL created a new body charged with carrying out that task. And on Wednesday of this week, the so-called Interim Health and Safety Prevention Council held its first meeting.

Although it’s still early in the process, we’re rapidly moving toward the make-or-break moment of Ontario OHS reform:

  • Which of the Dean Report recommendations will the government adopt?
  • Which recommendations will the government modify?
  • And which ones will be left on the cutting room floor?

By the time the Council finishes its work, we’ll know the answers to these questions.

Reading the Tea Leaves

Of course, nobody knows what the Council is going to do. But we do know who’s going to be calling the shots. 5 of the Council’s 6 members also served on the original Dean Commission, including:

  • Joan Eakin: A University of Toronto researcher who focuses on social dimensions of work and health, including injury causes, workplace social relationships and return-to-work;
  • Vernon Edwards: The health and safety director of the Ontario Federation of Labour who represents the interests of labour;
  • John Macnamara: VP of Hydro One who serves as the chief advocate for employers and management;
  • Domenic Mattina: Owner of a family-run business who’s there to advocate for small businesses; and
  • Carmine Tiano: Construction and Trades Council liaison to the WSIB who represents the interests of injured workers and promotes the return-to-work process.

The only member of the Council who wasn’t part of the initial Dean Commission is its Chairman, former Deputy Minister of Labour Paavo Kivisto.

The Bottom Line: Putting so many of the original Dean panelists on the Commission is a pretty good indication that the legislative proposal isn’t going to stray too far from the original recommendations. Although tweaks will be made, much if not most of what the Dean Report recommends is likely to find its way into the proposal. At least that’s what the tea leaves are telling us.

Staying Apprised on OHS Reform

The other thing we know for sure is that in the coming weeks and months, it will be imperative for employers from Ontario or who have operations in that province to stay on top of OHS reform:

  • What changes are being considered?
  • Will these changes actually be adopted and, if so, when?
  • What impact will these changes have on your company and its OHS program?
  • What steps must you take to comply with the new requirements?

If you’re counting on the Ministry of Labour and mainstream media for answers, forget it. In the more than 2 months—Dec. 16—since the MOL published the Dean Report, the MOL has issued all of 2 press releases on the subject. You can find plenty of news stories about the Dean Commission. But almost all of them regurgitate the information contained in those MOL press releases.

Frankly, you’re going to need more than these scattered crumbs of information to keep up with what’s happening.

The New OHSI Ontario OHS Reform Compliance Center

OHS Insider is therefore excited to announce that it has created a free new Compliance Centre to ensure that you get the information you need to monitor and prepare for Ontario OHS reform.

The first thing we’ve done is create a Special Report summarizing the current state of Ontario OHS reform, which you can access by clicking here. We will also begin publishing a new ezine reporting the most recent developments taking place in the reform process. We’ll also issue Special Bulletins letting you know when key news breaks like the proposal or adoption of actual legislation.

The Compliance Centre will also explain the new legal requirements that emerge from the reform process in plain English and show you how to comply with them. We’ll also create TOOLS and other materials you can use to implement the new rules.

For those of you who are not from Ontario and don’t care about what’s going on in that province, let me reassure you that changes are also afoot in your neck of the woods. OHS Insider has every intention of applying the same formats and services it develops to track Ontario OHS reform to keep you apprised of developments in your own jurisdiction.