What is the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)?

The Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) has been the backbone of health and safety regulations in Ontario’s workplaces since 1979, with today’s version based on significant amendments made in 1990. Enforced by the Ministry of Labour, the OHSA’s overarching role is to ensure workers are protected from workplace hazards.

By providing the legal framework for employers to establish internal procedures for preventing and handling workplace hazards—including everything from hazardous materials to workplace sexual harassment—the OHSA helps employers ensure workplaces are as healthy and safe as possible for all employees in Ontario while also ensuring workers understand their rights when it comes to workplace hazards.

Who does the OHSA and its regulations apply to?

The OHSA applies to almost all workers (including contractors, subcontractors and anyone else performing work or providing a service in exchange for compensation) and workplaces. This includes the majority of small to medium-sized businesses.

A worker is defined as: “A person who performs work or supplies services for monetary compensation.”

The OHSA defines a workplace as “any land, premises, location or thing at, upon, in or near which a worker works.”

An employer is defined as, “a person who employs or contracts for the services of one or more workers.”

There are a number of occupations to which the OHSA does not apply to; however, the Act covers most workplaces. Self-employed persons who contract out work or services may also be subject to OHSA.

What are employers’ duties under the OHSA?

Employers are responsible for:

  1. Taking all possible and reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of all their workers;
  2. Ensuring that equipment, materials and protective equipment are maintained and in good condition;
  3. Providing information, instruction, and supervision to protect workers and ensure their health and safety well-being; and
  4. Co-operating with health and safety representatives and Joint Health and Safety Committees

What are the consequences of violating the OHSA?

Employers are responsible for complying with all of the rules and standards set out in the OHSA. Any workplace that does not comply with the OHSA can be found liable to pay fines of up to $100,000. Corporations can face greater fines of up to $1,500,000. In addition, business owners can be imprisoned for failing to comply with provincial health and safety laws.

Not sure if you’re following the OHSA to code?

Understanding the terms and requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act can be confusing. If you have any questions or want to make sure you’re up to code, we can help. Give us a call at 1-888-216-2550.