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January 1, 2014 Deadline for New Mandatory Safety AwarenessTraining, Ontario Government Proposes

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Ontario employers will have until January 1, 2014 to ensure that all current workers and supervisors have received new mandatory safety awareness training, the Ontario government has proposed.

The government intends to file a regulation on or before July 1, 2013 making the training mandatory and imposing the January 1, 2014 deadline.

Mandatory for all Workplaces Covered by OHSA

The Ontario Ministry of Labour says, on its website, that the training will be mandatory for all workplaces currently covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, regardless of sector, including industrial establishments, construction projects, health care and residential facilities, mines and mining plants, and farming operations. The requirement even extends to office employees and others thought to be in low-safety-risk jobs.

New Employees

The regulation will also require that any new employees receive the worker training as soon as practicable after commencing work duties, and that new supervisors complete the supervisory safety awareness training within the first week of commencing supervisory duties.  New employees or supervisors who can prove that they received the safety awareness training at a previous employer will not be required to retake that training.

MOL’s Worker Training Materials

The MOL has finalized and released worker safety awareness training materials that employers can use.  The materials include a worker workbook, “Worker Health and Safety Awareness in 4 Steps“, and an employer guide to that workbook.  Employers who train workers using the MOL materials will automatically comply with the new mandatory safety awareness training requirement.  Note that the new requirement is for basic safety awareness training only; employers will, depending on the employee’s job, also be required to provide additional safety training, developed by the employer, tailored to the job.

MOL’s Supervisor Training Materials

The MOL’s supervisor safety awareness training materials have not yet been finalized.  A version of the supervisor training materials is being piloted, along with an employer guide to the supervisor training program.  The final version should be released shortly.

Required Content of Training

Employers who opt to use their own training materials instead of the MOL’s must, according to the MOL, ensure that the training covers, at a minimum, the following topics:

Worker Awareness Training

  • Rights and responsibilities of workers and supervisors under the OHSA
  • Roles of workplace parties, health and safety representatives, and joint health and safety committees
  • Roles of the Ministry of Labour, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and Health and safety partners
  • Hazard recognition
  • Right to be informed of hazards
  • Reference to an employer’s obligations to provide information and instruction to workers about controlled products as required under Regulation 860 (WHMIS) of the OHSA
  • Latency and illness related to occupational disease

Supervisor Awareness Training

  • Rights and responsibilities of workers and supervisors under the OHSA
  • Roles of workplace parties, health and safety representatives, and joint health and safety committees
  • Roles of the Ministry of Labour, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and health and safety partners
  • Recognition, assessment, control and evaluation of hazards
  • Where resources and assistance are available

Previous Training May Not Be Sufficient

Although many employers will have already provided safety awareness training to workers and supervisors, if that training did not include all of the above topics and was not “equivalent” to the training program developed by the MOL, then the training will not meet the new legal requirement.

Consequences of Missing Deadline

Employers who do not comply with the new training requirements by January 1, 2014 could be ordered by an MOL inspector to comply – meaning, they will have to scramble to complete the training in short order – or, in a worst-case scenario, they could be charged and fined.

What Should Employers Do

Ontario employers should, in the near future, do the following:

-review existing worker and supervisor training programs and consider whether they contain the content required under the new rules

-if there are training gaps – that is, if your current program is missing content required by the new MOL requirements – the employer must ensure that the gaps are filled by the end of 2013.  OHS legal counsel can assist in determining whether there are gaps

-decide how the training will be provided: in person, by webinar, etc.

-review your existing training documentation: are you able to prove that your employees have received the training that you have already done?

-consider how you will document that employees and supervisors have received the new mandatory training.  If the training is not properly documented, or you cannot adequately prove that a person received the training, the MOL could still lay orders or charges

The new requirement of safety awareness training is a sweeping requirement that all Ontario employers must be aware of.  MOL inspectors who visit an employer’s workplace in 2013 may ask whether the employer is making progress towards completing the training.  In 2014, inspectors will want to see proof that the training has been completed.