Navigating the Green Book (OHSA): A How-To Guide

Navigating the Green Book (OHSA): A How-To Guide

We’ve all seen theGreen Book (Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act)  dangling from the health and safety board at work, but have you ever opened it? Most have; a few may not have. Yet, it is one of the single most important workplace health and safety tools available. The Green Book is chock-full of valuable information that’s accessible directly at your fingertips. Go ahead and pick it up. If you aren’t sure how to navigate the Green Book, read onward; this article is full of tips and tricks that will help you understand and use the valuable information contained in the Green Book.

What is the Green Book?

The Green Book is a private publication available to the public that contains the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations. It is updated every year based on legislative changes made throughout the year. The Green Book also contains many of the most popular and oft-sought after Regulations. What makes OSG’s Green Book special is that it is organized by colour-coded tabs, and it features a comprehensive regulation-specific indexing system. As well, the font-size is larger than what is used in other publications, to make information easier to identify and read.  

About the Green Book

The Green Book is strict liability legislation. That means that the Green Book uses terms such as “every precaution reasonable in the circumstances.” This strict liability affords employers the option of a due diligence defense. That’s why being familiar with the Act and Regulations is essential.

Key Definitions

The Green Book features key definitions. Remember, these are legal definitions. Your idea of what constitutes a supervisor may differ from what is listed in the Green Book. When it comes to liability, due diligence, and other legal matters, it is the definition under the Act that will matter, not your own understanding. Key definitions of employer, supervisor, worker, workplace, construction, constructor, project, and industrial establishment can be found in Section 1 (S.1) of the Act. Among the important definitions to note is that of a “Competent Person,” defined below:

S.1: A “Competent Person” is:

  • A person who is qualified because of knowledge, training, and experience to organize the work and its performance
  • A person who is familiar with this Act and the regulations that apply to the work
  • A person who has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace

The Act requires that supervisors are competent: S.25(2)(c) An employer shall ensure that, when appointing a supervisor, appoint a competent person. There are also references to Competent Person in the Regulations. Industrial references typically apply to inspection and use of equipment, such as lifting devices, mobile equipment, and the use of a signaler.

Common Legal Verbs

The Green Book features many common legal verbs, such as “shall,” “may,” “and,” “or,” and “prescribed.” For the most part, when read in conjunction with legislation, their meaning is straightforward, with the exception of “prescribed.”

In the Green Book, “prescribed” means:

“Prescribed” by a regulation made under this Act means to look elsewhere. Whenever you see the term prescribed, the simplest action to take is look to the regulations or additional information. For example: S.25(1)(c), an employer shall ensure that the measures and procedures prescribed are carried out in the workplace.

Beyond the Regulations, there are many other examples of prescribed information. Examples of prescribed information include: safe work practices and procedures, standards, Safety Data Sheets (SDS), owners’ and operators’ manuals, and additional manufacturer instructions. 

Searching the Green Book

The easiest way to search the Green Book is to use the Act and Regulation-specific indexes at the back of the Green Book. To keep things simple, the indices are also sorted and colour-coded by Regulation. Once you find the search term that you are looking for, simply turn to the page number listed.

If you already know the section number, you can quickly use the top right and left-hand corners of the Green Book to locate it, similar to how you use the words in the top right and left corners of dictionary pages to locate words. While you may think that you will never know a section number, you will be surprised how quickly you memorize different sections that are applicable to your workplace.

Parts of the Act

There are ten parts to the Act. Knowing the parts will also aid in easily and quickly locating the information that you seek. Below is a list of the 10 parts, with a brief summary.


Part 1 – Application

This part identifies who is covered by the legislation within the Act and Regulations.

Part 2 – Administration

This part describes who administers the Act.

Part 2.1 – Prevention Council, Chief Prevention Officer, and Designated Entities

Covers the functions of the above named.

Part 3 – Duties

This part lays out the duties of the employer, the supervisor, the worker, the JHSC, and others, including constructors and contractors.

Part 3.0.1 – Violence and Harassment

Outlines the workplace requirements for a violence and harassment policy and program.

Part 3.1 – Codes of Practice

Allows the Minister to approve codes of practice and provides guidelines for codes of practice.

Part 4 – Toxic Substances

Outlines requirements for the identification and assessment of hazardous materials in the workplace

Part 5 – The Right to Refuse or Stop Unsafe Work

Identifies the conditions under which a worker may refuse or stop unsafe work, along with the steps to do so.

Part 6 – Reprisals

Prohibits employers from penalizing workers in reprisal for obeying the law or exercising their rights.

Part 7 – Notices

Outlines reporting requirements in the case of critical injury, fatality, or occupational illness.

Part 8 – Enforcement

Lists the regulatory and administrative powers of the Ministry of Labour, along with enforcement tools, and obligations when dealing with an inspector.

Part 9 – Offences and Penalties

This part outlines maximum penalties.

Part 10 – Regulations

This part allows the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations to improve health and safety.


Training and Instruction

There are specific references to training and instruction in the Act. Supervisors have a duty to provide written instructions where prescribed:

S.27(2)(b) Where so prescribed, provide a worker with written instructions as to the measures and procedures to be taken for the protection of the worker.

The Green Book: More than a Fancy Decoration

The best way to familiarize yourself with the Green Book and all of the information within is to just dive right in. The Green Book was meant for more than just hanging on the safety board at work. Start by digging through the index for the Act, and seeing what terms stand out. Some notable sections include:

  • Section 1: Definitions
  • Section 9: Joint Health and Safety Committees
  • Sections 23-32: Duties of various parties
  • Section 32.0.1: Violence and Harassment

If the information you seek is not within the Act, be sure to check out the Regulations!

If you have not yet ordered your new Green Book, call 800.815.9980 or place your order online.

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Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator

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