July 1, 2014 Deadline To Comply With Ontario’s New Safety Awareness Training Requirements. Here Is What You Need To Do

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Explore:  Canada OHSA Training

The clock is ticking.  All Ontario employers must provide their workers and supervisors with “basic occupational health and safety awareness training” by July 1st, 2014 or they will be in violation of a new regulation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  And employers’ in-house safety awareness training provided to workers in the past will likely not meet the new requirements.

This is an “if you do nothing, you will be in violation” regulation.

Who Must be Trained?

All workers and supervisors must be trained – even workers in jobs that are not considered hazardous. 

There are two types of safety awareness training: worker training and supervisor training, and the government dictates the contents of both.

What About Contractors?

The definition of “worker” under the Occupational Health and Safety Act can include contractors working for the employer.  Companies using contractors need to ensure that the contractors have received the safety awareness training.  Companies should consider revising their contractor agreement to include a clause requiring the contractor to ensure that all of the contractor’s employees who are supplied to the company have completed the safety awareness training.

Obligation is on Employer, not Employee

Every Ontario employer must ensure that their workers and supervisors complete the safety awareness training. The obligation is on the employer, not the employees.

What if the Employer Already Provided Safety Orientation?

If your company already provided safety awareness training to employees, you are not required to provide the new mandatory safety awareness program – as long as your training program includes all of the content required by the Ministry of Labour.  I expect that most employers will want to put all of their employees and supervisors through the new mandatory orientation, using the Ministry of Labour’s training materials, in order to avoid an argument down the road that the employer’s training program did not cover all of the required topics.  In particular, the new regulation requires that the worker and supervisor training cover “roles of the ministry, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), and Health and Safety Associations”, but those roles have recently changed, so one expects that most employers will not have covered that topic properly – if at all – in their existing in-house safety awareness program.

Deadline for New Employees, Supervisors

The deadline for providing the safety awareness training to current employees is July 1, 2014.  But for new employees hired after July 1, 2014, the deadline is “as soon as practicable” after they start working. For supervisors appointed to the supervisory position after July 1, 2014, the deadline is one week after starting to perform work as a supervisor.

How can the Training be Provided?

The training can be provided using the Ministry of Labour’s online “e-learning” modules, or by face-to-face sessions (group or individual) with employees.

Workbooks and E-Learning Tool

The Ministry of Labour makes a number of resources available to employers:

o        “Worker Health and Safety Awareness in 4 Steps” (worker workbook, 24 pages) is available here

o        ”An Employer Guide to Worker Health and Safety Awareness in 4 Steps” (2 pages) is available here

o        “Supervisor Health and Safety Awareness in 5 Steps” (supervisor workbook, 32 pages) is available here

o        ”An Employer Guide to Supervisor Health and Safety Awareness in 5 Steps” (2 pages) is available here

o        The e-learning training module for workers (45-60 minutes) is available here

o        The e-learning training module for supervisors (45-60 minutes) is available here

The e-learning training includes a few short videos, and a number of quiz questions.

Employers May use Own Equivalent Materials

Employers may opt to use their own training materials, instead of the MOL’s materials. However, the training program for workers must include instruction on the following topics:

o        the duties and rights of workers under OHSA;

o        the duties of employers and supervisors under OHSA;

o        common workplace hazards and occupational illnesses;

o        the role of joint health and safety committees (JHSCs) and of health and safety representatives under OHSA;

o        roles of the ministry, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), and Health and Safety Associations; and

o        information and instruction requirements set out in the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) Regulation.

If employers use their own supervisor safety orientation program, the training program must include instruction on:

o        the duties and rights of workers under OHSA;

o        the duties of employers and supervisors under OHSA;

o        how to identify, assess and manage workplace hazards, the role of joint health and safety committees (JHSCs), and of health and safety representatives under OHSA;

o        roles of the ministry, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), and Health and Safety Associations; and

o        sources of information on occupational health and safety.

How Much Time does the Training Take?

The Ministry of Labour says that the worker and supervisor e-learning modules each take 45 to 60 minutes to complete.

Face-to-face sessions held by the employer can take as long as the employer wishes, but must cover all of the required material.

How Long is the Training Valid?

The training is valid for the employee’s working career. However, employers have an ongoing obligation, irrespective of this new safety awareness training requirement, to ensure that employees are properly trained at all times to do their job.

Maintaining a Record of Training

Employers must maintain a record of the training that is completed by workers and supervisors.  If the training is completed using the MOL’s e-learning training module, an employee will receive a certificate that is valid for the remainder of his or her career.

The employer must keep proof of the training for up to six months after the worker or supervisor stops performing work for the employer.

Exemptions

In the following two situations, workers or supervisors will not be required to complete the new worker safety awareness training:

1.     If a worker or supervisor has previously completed a worker safety awareness training program with a current or former employer that includes the required topics for worker safety awareness training listed above, he or she does not have to take the training again if he or she can provide proof of the training. 

2.     A supervisor will not have to complete the worker training if:

(a)   the supervisor was performing work as a supervisor for the employer prior to November 14, 2013; and

(b)   the supervisor completed a basic occupational health and safety awareness training program for supervisors that meets the required contents listed above, before November 14, 2013.

If a supervisor has previously completed a supervisor safety awareness training program with a current or former employer that satisfies the required topics for supervisor training listed above, he or she will not have to take the supervisor awareness training again if he or she can provide proof of the training.

What Should Employers Do?

All Ontario employers should put a plan in place for ensuring that all workers complete the worker training, and all supervisors complete the supervisor training, by July 1st.  For office workers, the online e-learning module may be best. For others, the employer should consider holding face-to-face group training sessions with employees.

Here are some steps employers could take, to work towards completing the training:

1.   Make a list of workers (not just “employees”)

2.  Make a list of supervisors

3.  Determine whether each worker and supervisor already received equivalent worker or supervisor safety awareness training (likely not)

4.  Plan how training will be done (e-learning or face-to-face sessions)

5.  Print paper copies of MOL materials for face-to-face sessions (if training provided face-to-face)

6.  For face-to-face sessions gather other suggested materials, such as employer safety policies and procedures, (see Ministry of Labour’s employer guides, linked above)

7.  Plan when training will be done: regular work day or on employee’s own time?

8.  Schedule training

9.  Set deadline for completing: May 31?

10.  Develop tracking / reminder system

11.  Decide who will keep training records and where

Consequences of Missing the Deadline

A Ministry of Labour inspector recently told me that, immediately after July 1st, inspectors will likely issue a reminder to employers who have not conducted the training by the July 1st deadline.  However, employers who still fail to complete the training will likely receive a compliance order, and in cases of ongoing failure, could be charged and fined.

Non-Compliance may be “Red Flag” to MOL Inspector

Just like failing to post all of the required health and safety materials on your bulletin board (see our article on posting requirements here), a failure to ensure that your workers and supervisors received the safety awareness training by July 1st may be a “red flag” for inspectors that your company is not on top of its safety obligations. Keep a file with all of the completion certificates handy, so you can quickly show the MOL inspector that all employees have been trained.

This Seems Complicated. What is the Simplest Way to Comply?

For many employers, the simplest way to comply is to send all employees and supervisors an e-mail with a link to the MOL modules and require them to complete the e-learning module, print off the completion certificate, and provide the certificate to you before July 1st.

The new regulation, which sets out the mandatory safety awareness training requirement, can be accessed here.

Topics:  Canada, OHSA, Training

Published In: Construction Updates, Labor & Employment Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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