Ontario is launching a program offering $200 million over three years to support leaders in occupational health and safety (OH&S) modeled on similar strategies successfully deployed in Europe and Japan.
Ontario’s Safe Employers is a voluntary program which recognizes those companies whose OH&S management systems are deemed exemplary and have been accredited by Ontario’s chief prevention officer, Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s minister of labour, training and skills development told a news conference Nov. 22.
The announcement brought positive reactions from construction industry groups.
“This is a great program,” said David Frame, director of government relations for the Ontario General Contractors Association who was at the press conference. “We have been working with them on this. It folds in the Certificate of Recognition (COR) (an accreditation program which nationally certifies construction OH&S programs).”
Ian Cunningham, president of the Council of Ontario Construction Associations said: “We have supported the concept of accreditation and recognizing good employers for the past 10 years and we’re pleased the current government is moving forward with this important initiative.”
McNaughton said the overarching goal is always to get to zero deaths and zero workplace injuries and instilling a safety culture along with rewards to incentivize good practice is the best practice to get there.
“This is the first of its kind in Canada,” he said. “And we have worked with businesses, labour and other stakeholders to develop it. We want to recognize those who champion healthy and safety.”
The Ontario’s Safe Employers program will ante up $140 million for rebates on WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) insurance premiums over a three-years if they meet certain eligibility criteria.
It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s good business,
— Elizabeth Witmer
Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
An additional $60 million will be available for other rebates from the WSIB for businesses who successfully participate in the WSIB’s Health and Safety Excellence program and support Ontario’s Safe Employers Program.
The rebates are for a minimum of $1,000 a year for small businesses, up to 75 per cent of their WSIB premiums under its new Health and Safety Excellence Programs. The programs kick in Jan. 1 2020 along with the WSIB new rate structure.
There are 36 topics and businesses can progress point-by-point, earning rebates as they progress. On completion they are eligible for Safe Employers run by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. Safe Employers is open to any size business in any sector and is designed to promote a positive health and safety culture in the workplace, encourage ongoing improvements to OH&S training and implementation and to help reduce workplace injuries and illness.
The provincial program recognizes employer with a health and safety management system in place and the WSIB program will encourage employers who don’t have one to create one.
The top-down OH&S compliance and training approach is a lead-by-example strategy and ratchets up the ministry’s goal of making workplaces safer across all sectors.
Those companies in sectors with their own proprietary or specialized OH&S programs will also be able apply under the new scheme to be recognized if an audit of their strategy shows they are compliant with overall OH&S goals and training and meet the standard as published.
McNaughton and WSIB Chair Elizabeth Witmer called the programs “a major step forward.”
“It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s good business,” she said. “Poor workplaces create stress, absenteeism is higher and productivity is lower. This is to promote continuing improvement in workplace health and safety.”
While the rebates are the carrot, the stick of penalties and fines will remain unchanged.
“We inspected 79,000 workplaces last year,” said McNaughton noting the pace will continue. “That’s 1,500 a week.”