The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) is a provincial law that sets out the rights and duties of all parties in the workplace with respect to workplace health and safety. The OHSA was first enacted in 1979 with the goal of protecting workers from workplace hazards and injuries. In this article, we will explore the history of workplace safety in Ontario, including the development and evolution of the OHSA and its impact on workers and employers in the province.
The Early Years: Pre-OHSA
Before the OHSA was enacted, workplace safety in Ontario was largely unregulated. Workers had few legal protections from hazards and injuries on the job, and there was little incentive for employers to prioritize safety in the workplace. As a result, workplace accidents and injuries were common, and many workers suffered long-term consequences as a result of their injuries.
The Enactment of the OHSA
In 1979, the government of Ontario passed the OHSA, which established a set of rules and regulations governing workplace health and safety. The OHSA created the Ministry of Labour, which was responsible for enforcing the act and ensuring that employers and workers complied with its provisions. The OHSA also established the Ontario Labour Relations Board, which was responsible for resolving disputes between workers and employers.
The Evolution of the OHSA
Over the years, the OHSA has undergone several amendments and updates to keep pace with changing conditions in the workplace. For example, the act was amended in 1990 to include provisions for the protection of workers from violence and harassment in the workplace. In 2010, the act was further amended to include new rules for the protection of workers from workplace bullying and psychological harassment.
The Role of Joint Health and Safety Committees
One of the key provisions of the OHSA is the requirement for employers to establish Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSCs) in their workplaces. These committees are made up of representatives from both management and workers, and are responsible for identifying and addressing health and safety issues in the workplace. JHSCs play a crucial role in promoting a culture of safety in the workplace and ensuring that workers have a say in decisions that affect their health and safety.
The Right to Refuse Dangerous Work
Under the OHSA, workers have the right to refuse work that they believe is dangerous or potentially hazardous to their health and safety. This right is known as the “right to refuse” and is an important safeguard for workers who may be asked to perform tasks that they believe are unsafe. When a worker exercises their right to refuse, the employer must investigate the situation and take steps to address the worker’s concerns.
The Role of the Ministry of Labour in Enforcing the OHSA
The Ministry of Labour is responsible for enforcing the provisions of the OHSA and ensuring that employers and workers comply with its provisions. The ministry has a number of tools at its disposal, including inspections, orders, and prosecutions, to ensure compliance with the act. The ministry also provides education and training to workers and employers to help them understand their rights and obligations under the OHSA.
The Impact of the OHSA on Workers and Employers
The OHSA has had a significant impact on workers and employers in Ontario. For workers, the act has provided important protections from hazards and injuries in the workplace. It has also given workers a voice in decisions that affect their health and safety, through the establishment of Joint Health and Safety Committees. For employers, the OHSA has created a framework for managing health and safety in the workplace, and has helped to reduce the number and severity of workplace accidents and injuries.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act has played a crucial role in promoting workplace safety in Ontario. Since its enactment in 1979, the act has provided workers with important protections from hazards and injuries on the job, and has given them a voice in decisions that affect their health and safety. The OHSA has also helped to create a framework for managing health and safety in the workplace, and has contributed to a reduction in the number and severity of workplace accidents and injuries. Despite these achievements, there is still more work to be done to ensure that all workers in Ontario have a safe and healthy working environment.