“Working at Heights” in Ontario

As of April 1, 2015, employers in Ontario must ensure that workers on construction projects who may use certain methods of fall protection successfully complete ‘working at heights’ training that meets training program and provider standards established by the Chief Prevention Officer (CPO).

The Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training Regulation (Ontario Regulation 297/13) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) was amended to include mandatory working at heights training requirements.  The training requirement applies to workers who use travel restraint systems, fall restricting systems, fall arrest systems, safety nets and work belts or safety belts. Once completed, the working at heights training is valid for three years from the date the worker completes an approved training program delivered by an approved training provider.

Contractors and Contract Workers

“Contractor” means a person who, pursuant to one or more contracts, directs the activities of one or more employers or self-employed persons involved in work at a workplace; («entrepreneur»)

“Prime Contractor” means the prime contractor for a construction project referred to in section 7 («entrepreneur principal»)

“Worker” includes any person engaged by another person to perform services, whether under a contract of employment or not

Source: The Workplace Health & Safety Act

Employing contractors is a common practice today, but what are the responsibilities regarding their health and safety? Owners, employers and contractors, involved in a contract have responsibilities to ensure that the work is done safely and according to the health and safety legislation in their jurisdiction. Contractors are required, as far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure that workplaces and work processes do not create a risk to the health and safety of any persons working as an employer, employer’s worker or self-employed person carrying out a contract with the contractor.

There must be a prime contractor for a project when more than one employer or self-employed person is involved in a work project at the same time. The prime contractor must ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that every person involved in a work project complies with the health and safety requirements of the project jurisdiction, so that no person is exposed to risks to his or her health and safety arising from activities at the project site.

It is important to remember that employers, contractors and sub-contractors carry responsibility to comply with jurisdictional legislation and ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of any persons working at their work projects and sites.


The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information system (WHMIS) is Canada’s hazard communication standard. The key elements of the system are: (1) cautionary labeling of containers of WHMIS “controlled products”, (2) the provision of material safety data sheets (MSDS), (3) worker education programs.

WHMIS is applied through a coordination of federal, provincial and territorial legislation. MSDS and supplier labeling requirements are set out under the Hazardous Products Act and the associated Controlled Products Regulations. This Act and its regulations are administered by the Government of Canada, Department of Health.

Federal, provincial and territorial agencies, responsible for occupational health and safety, have established employer WHMIS requirements. These requirements place an onus on employers to ensure that controlled products used, stored, handled or disposed of in the workplace are properly labeled, MSDS are made available to workers and workers receive education and training in the use, storage, handling and disposal of these controlled products.

WHMIS reinforces the workers’ right-to-know what workplace hazards exist and the right to receive training in proper use, storage, handling and disposal of controlled products. It is the worker’s responsibility to make superiors aware of any unsafe work processes or conditions that might endanger themselves or others in the workplace.

If an employer is charged under the Occupational Health & Safety Act, they are presumed guilty until they can prove otherwise. In addition it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure an employee has WHMIS training before they begin working.

Federal Bill C-45

On March 31 2004, Bill C-45 amending the criminal code (Federal Legislation) came into effect. Bill C-45 clearly defines who is responsible for the safety of persons in the workplace and allows for prosecution under charges of “criminal negligence” when those responsibilities are carelessly or willfully disregarded

The amendment states:

“Everyone who undertakes, or has the authority to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.”

Federal Bill C-45 has far reaching implications in every business, including every sign shop, and as an association every member needs to be informed of their rights, responsibilities, and penalties for non-compliance.

Bill 168 & Bill 132

As you may know, Bill 168 mandates that all companies create a Workplace Violence & Harassment policy and program. And, that is where a lot of companies left the process…writing a policy and passing it around to workers to read and then sign-off.

Unfortunately, many companies are not, and have not been compliant with the law, because they don’t also provide training to their workers to go along with their Workplace Violence & harassment policy and program. If that situation describes how Bill 168 was handled at your place of work, you’re not alone – and it’s definitely not too late to do something about it.

Bill 132

Bill 132 added sexual violence and harassment specifically into the lexicon of Workplace Violence & Harassment law. The addition doesn’t make a very dramatic change, but it is a difference that is important to articulate into law…and into your own Workplace Violence & Harassment policy and program at work.

Put in the simplest terms, Bill 132 is “an Act to amend various statutes with respect to sexual violence, sexual harassment, domestic violence and related matters”

Some of those amendments and key additions include:

  • measures and procedures for workers to report incidents of workplace harassment to a person other than the employer or supervisor, if the employer or supervisor is the alleged harasser;
  • how incidents or complaints of workplace harassment will be investigated and dealt with;
  • how information obtained about an incident or complaint of workplace harassment, including identifying information about any individuals involved, will not be disclosed unless the disclosure is necessary for investigating, taking corrective action, or by law; and
  • how a worker who has allegedly experienced workplace harassment and the alleged harasser (if s/he is a worker of the employer) will be informed of the results of the investigation and of corrective action that has been, or will be, taken.

Refresher Training is Fundamental to the Quality of Your Health & Safety Culture.

Some training courses have mandated refresher periods – forklift operator training, for example. Other courses are considered to be “one-and-done,” meaning you are only legally required to take it once (like the way JHSC Certification training used to be handled).

Whether or not you provided Workplace Violence & Harassment training back in 2010, or at any point in the years that followed, it’s in your best interest to refresh all training at least every 3 years, to prove you are doing your due diligence.

Training that is older than 3 years, especially when there have been additions or amendments to existing law is a fundamentally good thing to do.  You ensure you are providing the latest training to your team, in a timely fashion, which all falls under your obligation to “do everything reasonable under the circumstances to protect the worker.”

In ALL cases, providing training (and/or refresher training) is one of those reasonable precautions.

For more information on Bill 168 and Bill 132 training, please contact HASCO at 855-HASCO-ca (855-427-2622) or e-mail info@hasco.ca