Duties of Employers Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act

Employers are legally obligated to perform certain duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). Understanding your responsibilities is key to ensuring that you, your workers, and your workplace remain in compliance with the Act. Failure to do so not only puts your workers’ health and safety at risk, but you could be ordered to pay significant fines of up to $100,000, or even serve a one-year prison term.

These types of penalties can bankrupt a business, so it’s imperative that employers understand their role in ensuring the workplace is as healthy and safe as possible. Under the OHSA legislation, the following outlines the main responsibilities of employers to ensure their workplace is compliant with regulations.

Duties of Employers

Under section 25, idem 2 of the Act, employers are required to:

(a) Provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker;

(b) In a medical emergency for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment, provide, upon request, information in the possession of the employer, including confidential business information, to a legally qualified medical practitioner and to such other persons as may be prescribed;

(c) When appointing a supervisor, appoint a competent person;

(d) Acquaint a worker or a person in authority over a worker with any hazard in the work and in the handling, storage, use, disposal and transport of any article, device, equipment or a biological, chemical or physical agent;

(e) Afford assistance and co-operation to a committee and a health and safety representative in the carrying out by the committee and the health and safety representative of any of their functions;

(f) Only employ a person in or about your workplace who is of legal working age according to the OHSA;

(g) Refrain from knowingly permitting a person who is under the legal working age to be in or about a workplace;

(h) Take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker;

(i) Post, in the workplace, a copy of the OHSA and any explanatory material prepared by the Ministry of Labour, both in English and the majority language of the workplace, outlining the rights, responsibilities and duties of workers;

(j) Prepare and review at least annually a written occupational health and safety policy and develop and maintain a program to implement that policy;

(k) Post a copy of the occupational health and safety policy at a conspicuous location in the workplace;

(l) Provide to the committee or to a health and safety representative the results of a report respecting occupational health and safety that is in the employer’s possession and, if that report is in writing, a copy of the portions of the report that concern occupational health and safety; and

(m) Advise workers of the results of a report referred to in clause (l) and, if the report is in writing, make available to them on request copies of the portions of the report that concern occupational health and safety;

(n) Notify a Ministry of Labour Director if a committee or a health and safety representative, if any, has identified potential structural inadequacies of a building, structure, or any part thereof, or any other part of a workplace, whether temporary or permanent, as a source of danger or hazard to workers.

Additional Duties of Employers

Under section 26 of the OHSA, employers are also required to:

(a) Establish an occupational health service for workers as prescribed by the Act;

(b) Where an occupational health service is established as prescribed, maintain the same according to the standards prescribed;

(c) Keep and maintain accurate records of the handling, storage, use and disposal of biological, chemical or physical agents as prescribed by the Act;

(d) Accurately keep and maintain and make available to the worker affected such records of the exposure of a worker to biological, chemical or physical agents;

(e) Notify a Ministry of Labour Director of the use or introduction into a workplace of such biological, chemical or physical agents;

(f) Monitor at such time or times or at such interval or intervals the levels of biological, chemical or physical agents in a workplace and keep and post accurate records of them;

(g) Comply with a standard limiting the exposure of a worker to biological, chemical or physical agents as prescribed by the Act;

(h) Establish a medical surveillance program for the benefit of workers;

(i) Provide for safety-related medical examinations and tests for workers;

(j) Where prescribed by the Act, only permit a worker to work or be in a workplace who has undergone such medical examinations, tests or x-rays as prescribed and who is found to be physically fit to do the work in the workplace;

(k) If prescribed by the Act, provide a worker with written instructions as to the measures and procedures to be taken for the protection of a worker; and

(l) Carry out such training programs for workers, supervisors and committee members in the manner required by the Act.

For more information on your duties as an employer under OHSA regulations, visit the Government of Ontario website.

Questions about your responsibilities under the OHSA? Ask Us.

Helping employers is what we do. We offer a complimentary employer helpline available for small businesses. Give our workplace health and safety experts a call at 1-888-216-2550.