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Ontario Renewing Vision for Worker Health and Safety


Ron Kelusky

Chief Prevention Officer,
Ontario Ministry of Labour

Ontario is one of the safest places to work in North America. Yet too many workers continue to be injured and killed on the job.

As Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer, I oversee our province’s integrated occupational health and safety strategy. The strategy outlines the vision, goals, priorities, and specific actions to improve worker safety. It was developed with extensive input from businesses, employee groups, and our health and safety partners. The goal is for all workers to be healthy and safe at all times.

Developing a strong strategy

Over the past five years, the strategy has transformed Ontario’s occupational health and safety system and helped to eliminate preventable workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths.

We are now working to develop the next strategy with continued input from business owners and workers across Ontario. The new strategy will be our blueprint for the next five years. It is being formed as a foundation for collaborating with workplaces and our health and safety partners to keep workers safe on the job.

Proper training is key

One of our priorities is to prevent high hazards such as falls. These types of incidents accounted for 20% of approved lost-time injury claims to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) in 2017.

Lack of proper training is one of the key barriers. Of all workplace falls from heights between 2009 and 2016, 45% of workers had less than one year of experience in their role. 

Preventing worker injuries and deaths […] is saving businesses millions of dollars in health, lost productivity, and other costs.

We have responded by implementing working at heights training requirements. This training is mandatory for construction workers who are working at heights. Falls are a leading cause of worker injuries and deaths at construction projects.

A recent study by the Institute for Work and Health (IWH) showed that this program is having a positive impact on the workplace. It is preventing worker injuries and deaths — and this, in turn, is saving businesses millions of dollars in health, lost productivity, and other costs. This is very good news for the construction sector.

We have also launched a Falls Awareness Week, to be held May 6 to 10 this year. I hope you’ll join us in pausing work for 15 to 30 minutes to conduct a safety talk on falls and to identify specific fall hazards at your workplace. Having an open dialogue at work is an important step in preventing falls.

We are also working on other initiatives. These include a Certification Management System which will give employers and workers instant, free access to verifying employee training. It will eliminate delays, red tape, possible inspection orders, and lost production time.

Injuries and fatalities devastate the lives of those suffering and their families.

Keeping industries accountable for workers’ safety

Ministry inspectors continue to visit workplaces to ensure employers are complying with workplace laws. In 2018-2019, inspectors visited more than 30,500 workplaces, some of them several times. More than half of those visits were proactive, to check for hazards and prevent incidents.

Injuries and fatalities devastate the lives of those suffering and their families. They hurt productivity at the workplace, affect the bottom line, and are very costly for the health care system.

I am very proud of the work we are doing to assist business owners and to keep Ontario workers safe. 

Every one of us — employers, supervisors, workers, and government — has an important role to play in preventing worker injuries and deaths in our province. Workplace safety is a shared responsibility. We must all work together to ensure worker’s health and safety are protected. Together, we can continue to make a difference.

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