MOL Safety Inspectors Should be “Compliance-Focused” not “Enforcement-Focused”: Ontario’s “Regulator’s Code of Practice”

Employers who deal with Ontario Ministry of Labour inspectors may wish to review the Ontario government’s Regulator’s Code of Practice.  That Code applies to MOL inspectors and other government compliance staff, and sets out principles that the inspectors and other compliance staff are expected to follow.

Interestingly, the Code states that government inspectors should be “compliance-focused” rather than “enforcement-focused”, which in the context of MOL inspectors, appears to mean focused on helping employers maintain a safe working environment rather than focused on laying charges against employers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The Code states that a compliance-focus requires the inspector to “focus on the objectives of regulatory law and policy and then consider the most innovative, efficient and effective method of achieving compliance.”

In an apparent recognition of the challenging economic climate for many Ontario employers, particularly those in the manufacturing industry, the Code states that government inspectors and regulators should do their jobs in a way that “allows businesses to better focus on increasing competitiveness and economic growth while complying with Ontario’s rules and regulations”.

The Code goes on to suggest that government compliance staff, including MOL inspectors, should classify employers into four categories, and treat them as follows:

  • “For those who are in full compliance, consider providing compliance assistance.
  • For situations where there is no previous history of non-compliance, consider providing compliance assistance as well as progressive compliance and enforcement action, where appropriate.
  • For situations where there is repeated history of non-compliance, consider using progressive compliance and enforcement actions.
  • For situations where the level of risk is immediate and serious, use your organization’s appropriate enforcement actions.”

Those four categories suggest what is already commonly understood: that employers with a history of non-compliance with the OHSA are more likely to be charged at least in cases of relatively minor safety violations than employers with a history of compliance.

The Code also states that compliance staff should demonstrate honesty and integrity, respect, objectivity, confidentiality, knowledge and competencies.

The Regulator’s Code of Practice may be accessed online at

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Adrian Miedema

About Adrian Miedema

Adrian is a partner in the Toronto Employment group of Dentons Canada LLP. He advises and represents public- and private-sector employers in employment, health and safety and human rights matters. He appears before employment tribunals and all levels of the Ontario courts on behalf of employers. He also advises employers on strategic and risk management considerations in employment policy and contracts.

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