*This blog was updated on February 18, 2022.
Is your workplace ready for reopening? Have you updated your policies and implemented Public Health guidelines? Are you prepared for a Ministry of Labour (MOL) health and safety inspection?
Under Ontario’s labour laws, employers are required to take all reasonable precautions for the health and safety of their employees. This includes a workplace free of hazards, including hazards such as infectious diseases. Through safety inspections, the Ministry ensures workplaces in different sectors are operating in compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
Every year, the Ministry schedules inspection blitzes in specific sectors. The schedule is available on the Ministry website. However, it lists the sectors to be inspected, and not individual workplaces.
Ontario’s Ministry of Labour added more than 100 new health and safety inspectors to strengthen its inspectorate for inspection blitzes in September 2021. The new additions took the total count of labour inspectors in the province to a record 507.
In December 2021, the MOL launched another COVID-19 inspection blitz in response to the widespread transmission of the Omicron variant.
Types of audits
MOL’s health and safety audits are both proactive and reactive. Reactive visits are in response to a fatality, critical injury, work refusal or a complaint. Proactive workplace inspections are usually unannounced.
A typical proactive visit
A health and safety inspector may drop by unannounced. The inspector will show you their identification and introduce themselves. They will ask to speak with a member of the management and the office’s health and safety contact person. They may also want to meet the worker health and safety representative or a member of the joint health and safety committee.
The inspector may check that all documentation necessary under the OHSA is in place. Under the law, you must also display the said documentation in an area accessible by all employees. The inspector may examine other relevant documentation such as proof of training. Next, the inspector will survey the workplace to check whether you are complying with the OHSA regulations. Make sure you have someone from your staff taking notes, and walking the inspector through the workspace in case any procedures or measures need to be explained to them.
The inspector may interview you or your employees. They may use or test any equipment or material. It is within their powers to take samples, photographs and measurements. If there are any violations or hazards, the inspector may issue orders or tickets for fines.
In case of an immediate risk of injury, the inspector may issue a “stop work” order and shut down your workplace. You have to comply with their orders. It is best to be professional, respectful and transparent during an MOL inspection.
The inspector will also give you a Notice of Compliance form along with the orders. You have to complete the form and mail it back to the inspector. You must also get the response of the health and safety representative or a member of the joint health and safety committee on the form. They must state their opinion on whether you have complied with the orders. Under the OHSA, you can resume work after notifying the inspector that you have complied with the order. However, there may be a second inspection to confirm compliance.
The inspector will give you a written field visit report that contains a summary of their findings at the end of the visit. You must put up a copy of that report in your workplace. You must also provide a copy to the health and safety representative or a member of the joint health and safety committee.
Reasons for a reactive visit
Reactive visits can be in response to complaints and work refusals. If there has been a critical injury or fatality in your workplace, you must immediately report it to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. The Ministry will then send an inspector to investigate. Once the probe is over, the inspector may issue remedial orders. The inspector may also recommend that charges be laid if there has been a violation of Ontario’s OHSA.
Here’s what to expect from COVID-19 health and safety audits
The inspector will examine your workplace to see if you are following public health guidelines regarding COVID-19. They will check whether you have implemented physical distancing, masking, and other workplace health & safety measures. The inspector may ask to see your COVID-19 safety plan.
All Ontario businesses that are operating are required to develop a written COVID-19 safety plan by law. It should be accessible to everyone in the workplace and put up in a place where it is visible to all. You should review and update the safety plan regularly.
Make sure you update your health and safety policies as per provincial public health guidelines. You must also install safety controls in your workplace to minimize the risk of COVID-19. You must inform, educate and train your staff about these policies and measures.
If you are operating in Toronto or any other region in Ontario where face masks are mandatory in indoor public spaces, you must also have a face mask policy for your business. You should be able to provide a copy of the policy to the inspector, when requested.
The specific steps and measures you are required to follow may also depend on your sector.
Do you need help preparing your workplace for health and safety inspections?
By fulfilling your health and safety obligations as an employer, you not only ensure the safety of your employees, but also protect your business from costly fines.
Our experts can help you prepare for workplace inspections, develop relevant health and safety policies, and assist you with any workplace health and safety advice you need. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call us today at 1 (833) 247-3652.