After months of debate and consultation, Bill 160 has passed in Ontario, Canada after a 79-0 vote in the provincial assembly late last week. The Occupational Health and Safety Statute Law Amendment Act will take full effect when it achieves Royal Assent, as soon as next month.
The Act will create the position of a provincial Chief Prevention Officer as well as a Prevention Council to work with the Ministry of Labour to develop a comprehensive occupational health and safety strategy and determine training standards.
The act will affect almost all businesses across the province, so make sure you are up to speed with all the bill’s implications by checking out OHS Insider’s very handy and comprehensive Ontario OHS Reform Blog, which features detailed information on the nuances on Bill 160.
As the blog notes, establishing provincewide training standards will be central to the Act after it becomes law.
Ontario is poised to dramatically rework how it manages occupational health and safety.
Earlier this month Bill 160 was amended by the province’s standing committee on social policy and is now headed to the provincial legislature for a third reading and vote, meaning it could be law by as early as June. The proposed bill flows from the work of an expert panel formed in the wake of a string of workplace-related deaths across the province.
Focused on training and prevention, some of the bill’s key elements are as follows:
Training standards: The bill would call upon the Minister of Labour to set training program standards and ‘approve’ compliant organizations accordingly.
Training provider: In addition to minimum standards for training programs, those who administer training would also be required to achieve “approved training provider” status, though those certified under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act would be automatically approved.
Prevention: Quite notably, the bill would establish both a Prevention Council and a Chief Prevention Officer (CPO). It would also take the responsibility of workplace safety away from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) and hand it to the newly created CPO, who would report to the Minister of Labour and also be charged with the development of a provincial health and safety strategy. The Prevention Council, composed of provincial health and safety organizations, trade union representatives, employers, and other experts in the field, would provide advice to the CPO as he or she develops an province-wide strategy and prepares an annual report for the Minister.
Additional changes include adjustments to the number of trained health and safety personnel required for small businesses, altering how reprisals are referred to the labour relations board, and more.
According to convention, businesses across Ontario could be given up to 12 months to comply with the new rules, though the Ministry of Labour may ask employers to adhere to the act’s requirements on an expedited basis. Proactive businesses ought to begin determining how they will address the coming changes. For up-to-date news on Bill 160 developments, check out OHS Insider’s excellent blog on Ontario health and safety reform.