Further to an article that appeared in the November issue of Network News, Ontario's Ministry of Labour announced on November 15, 2013 that all workplaces covered under the Occupational Health and Safety Act must ensure that workers and supervisors have completed a basic health and safety awareness training program by July 1, 2014.
Are you already providing awareness training?
Sandra Miller, WSPS's vice president, Innovation & Knowledge Mobilization, describes awareness training as an extension of the Occupational Health and Safety Act's general duty clause for employers, "so if you're already complying with the general duty clause, then mandatory awareness training poses no additional burden."
To help employers determine if their existing training qualifies, the ministry is preparing an equivalency checklist. "If you have already implemented awareness training on your own," says Miller, "you'll be able to compare what you have against the checklist to make sure you're covering the required content."
Take note: regardless of how the training is provided, employers must keep records to confirm that workers and supervisors have received the training.
What's behind the training
Mandatory awareness training was one of 46 recommendations made in 2010 by a multi-stakeholder expert advisory panel that included labour and management groups. The minister of labour appointed the panel to conduct a comprehensive review of Ontario's occupational health and safety system, and accepted all 46 recommendations.
The training is designed to help workers and supervisors actively protect themselves and the people they work with from workplace hazards. WSPS's Andrew Harkness, a key account manager - OHSW Management Systems, describes awareness training as an essential foundation. "Basic awareness training in conjunction with higher levels of training will help reinforce the workplace's health and safety culture and reduce the emotional and financial toll of injuries. It will also help all workplace parties meet their duties under the act."
Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi puts it this way: "We're investing in our people, our businesses, and safer workplaces because we know they are the building blocks of a strong economy, strong communities and a stronger Ontario."
How to get ready
Building awareness across all workplaces and specifically for all workers and supervisors is an important step in building a culture of health and safety, particularly among small businesses and vulnerable workers. The introduction of this regulation signals a significant turning point in health and safety history that will have a profound impact on future generations.
Employers should be prepared to raise the level of dialogue and encourage more conversations - as awareness increases, so too will questions, ideas and, perhaps most importantly, commitment.
The following steps will help your business meet its obligations and create a safer, healthier and more productive operation.
Make your organization aware of the new requirements, and why it's important for people and for business.
Assess your existing awareness program against the ministry's requirements.
If your program does not meet requirements, figure out what's needed and how to proceed.
Draft an implementation schedule for training and record keeping that ensures compliance before July 1, 2014.
Verify that new hires have had appropriate training.
Document, document, document.
Ministry of Labour resources
To help you meet the compliance requirements, the ministry has produced free e-learning modules and downloadable training guides and workbooks. The resources include a poster that must be displayed in all workplaces.
How WSPS can help
From comprehensive course offerings to consulting expertise, WSPS can also help you meet the immediate requirements of the new regulation and achieve its broader goal to create and sustain a safe, healthy and productive workplace.
Among our service offerings we provide in-depth educational opportunities such as:
Our consultants offer extensive expertise and knowledge in addition to awareness sessions at our regional conferences.
WSPS's annual Safety Group program provides a forum in which participating firms work together to establish robust and sustainable health and safety programs customized to their individual needs. Deadline to sign up for 2014: December 13.