OHS & Workers’ Compensation Management Update: "The Future of Workplace Safety in Ontario: Dean Panel Recommendations Revealed"

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In this OHS & Workers' Compensation Management Update: New Prevention Organization; Mandatory Training for Health and Safety Representatives; Strengthening Authority of JHSC Co-Chairs; Mandatory Health and Safety Awareness Training; Targeting the Underground Economy; Enforcement and Penalties; Reprisals; Greater Guidance to Employers and Other Stakeholders; Incentives; and Greater Protection for Vulnerable Workers - Farming, Construction. Temporary Staffing Industry.

In the OHS world, tragedy frequently begets change. In Ontario, tragedy came in the form of six construction-related workplace fatalities occurring in late 2009 and early 2010, including the highly publicized quadruple fatality involving immigrant, non-union workers who fell after a swing-stage failure on Christmas Eve 2009. In the wake of these events, the Ontario government announced a comprehensive review of the Ontario OHS system by a ten person Expert Advisory Panel, chaired by Tony Dean, a professor at the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance and former Secretary of the Cabinet. Appointed in March, 2010, the Panel reviewed hundreds of submissions from workplace stakeholders and, on December 16, 2010, released an eighty-page Report setting out forty-six sweeping recommendations for change to Ontario’s health and safety system1. The recommendations address such issues as the internal responsibility system, the underground economy, incidents of reprisals, the means and consistency of enforcement of OHS in Ontario, the underground economy, and vulnerable workers (including recent immigrants, temporary workers and workers in construction in particular) to improve their safety.

For the last number of years, and in the lead up to the appointment of the panel, the Ontario government has repeatedly pointed out that the province has doubled the number of full-time OHS Inspectors engaging in proactive inspections and reactive investigations since 2005, and that workplace injury and accident rates are going down, not up. The Ontario government has engaged in ongoing hazard specific blitzes since 2008. Corporate and individual penalties for OHS contraventions in Ontario are amongst the highest in Canada. Despite this, the Chair of the Advisory Panel, Tony Dean, has been quoted as saying that his desire, and that of the Panel is to “make Ontario the safest jurisdiction in the world”. Indeed, the Report states that the goal is to achieve improved compliance and zero workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities.

This article examines a number of the forty-six detailed recommendations contained in the Expert Advisory Panel Report. There are a number of specific themes that repeat themselves throughout the recommendations of the Panel, and a brief recitation of those themes may allow employers and managers in Ontario to better appreciate and grapple with the impact of expected changes to the OHS system.

Please see full update below for more information.

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