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Ontario Health and Safety Inspection Blitzes: Is Your Practice Prepared?

By August 13, 2015June 27th, 2023Employment Law, Practice Management

The Ministry of Labour. They’ve been busy the last few years, haven’t they? They’ve been sending out their Occupational Health and Safety inspectors, stirring up fear and confusion among Ontario employers.

According to the Health Care Sector Plan (the “Plan“), which was issued in June 2015, inspection blitzes and field visits will continue into the year 2017 as inspectors seek to tackle the following issues:

  • assist vulnerable workers
  • support small businesses to improve their occupational health & safety knowledge/implementation
  • address workplace hazards

What are inspectors looking for?

According to the Plan here are 12 of the top issues that inspectors will be focusing on in the blitzes to come, all of which affect dental offices, in one way or another:

1. Evaluation of the Internal Responsibility System

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA“) sets the foundation for an Internal Responsibility System (“IRS“) in which everyone is responsible for worker safety, especially employers. Part of the IRS is the establishment and promotion of Health & Safety Representatives (OHSA, section 8) and/or a Joint Health & Safety Committee (OHSA, section 9).

Ministry inspectors will look for evidence of a strong IRS and properly functioning Health and Safety Representatives and Joint Health and Safety Committees. For more information on the IRS, click here.

2. Compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training Regulation

As of July 2014, employers must ensure that all employees, including supervisors, get the appropriate health and safety training. Such training must include instruction on the following:

  • the duties and rights of workers under the OHSA
  • the duties of employers and supervisors under the OHSA
  • the roles of health and safety representatives and joint health and safety committees under the OHSA
  • the roles of the Ministry, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and entities designated under section 22.5 of the OHSA with respect to occupational health and safety
  • common workplace hazards
  • the requirements set out in Regulation 860 (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)) with respect to information and instruction on controlled products
  • occupational illness, including latency

(OHSA, O. Reg 297/13).

Inspectors will be checking on employer compliance with these employee training laws.

For more information on health and safety awareness training, click here.

3. Top Five Hazards and Contributors to Lost-Time Injuries

Muskuloskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

According to the Plan, MSDs account for the largest percentage of lost-time injuries (which are those injuries that keep employees from work). Because of this, employers are required to:

  • know their workplace’s MSDs injury record
  • be aware of MSD hazards in their workplace
  • take appropriate action to protect workers from MSD harzards
  • ensure good maintenance of equipment
  • provide information, instruction and supervisions to workers on MSD hazards and the protective measures in place
  • establish written measures and procedures for the protection of workers

For more information on MSDs click here.

Slips, Trips and Falls

Like MSDs, slips, trips and falls account for a large part of workers’ lost-time injuries. Inspectors will focus on maintenance of work surfaces, general housekeeping, etc. with the ultimate goal of decreasing the risk of slips, trips and falls.

According to the OHSA, employers must:

  • take every reasonable precaution in the circumstances to protect workers
  • provide information and instruction on slips trips and falls
  • ensure workers properly use or wear safety equipment

For more information on slips, trips and falls, click here.

Exposure to Hazardous Materials

Hazardous materials can be anything from biological and chemical agents (viruses, bacteria, lab work chemicals) to noise and x-rays.

Under the OHSA, all employers must provide information, supervision and instruction to workers to protect their health and safety, and take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers. This includes having a written health and safety policy, making Material Safety Data Sheets available to workers, complying with prescribed procedures for safe use, handling and storage of hazardous materials, etc.

Inspections will focus on compliance with the OHSA including: WHMIS, X-Ray Safety Regulation (O. Reg. 861), Designated Substances Regulation (O. Reg. 490/09), Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents Regulation (O. Reg. 833) etc.

Contact With and “Struck-By” Object Injuries

When it comes to object/machinery safety, employers are responsible for assessing the risk to workers and developing and implementing measures and procedures in order to protect workers from these types of injuries. Inspectors will be looking for employers to have provided workers with information, instruction and supervision regarding safe work practices and conditions.

Workplace Violence

Workplace violence can range from physical to emotional violence and workplace bullying. Under the OHSA, employers are required to do the following in order to prevent and deal with workplace violence:

  • develop a written workplace violence and harassment policy
  • have programs to implement those policies
  • asses the risk of workplace violence
  • take every precaution necessary and reasonable in the circumstances in order to protect workers

For more information on employer obligations when it comes to workplace violence, click here.

4. Competent Supervision

Under the OHSA, employers have a duty to hire competent supervisors who have charge of the workplace or authority over workers.

Ministry inspectors will be checking that employers have hired competent supervisors who:

  • are qualified because of their knowledge, training, and experience to organize the work and its performance
  • are familiar with the OHSA and its regulations, as they apply to their work
  • have knowledge of any potential or actual danger to the health and safety of employees in the workplace.

5. Needle and Sharps Safety

Employers must ensure that the appropriate controls and in place for the use, handling and disposal of all needles and sharps at the workplace.

6. Infectious Diseases and Infections

Dental offices, like other health sector workplaces, are at a higher risk of infections and infectious diseases. Inspections will focus on ensuring that workers are protected from such risks, including ensuring that all employers provide information, supervision and instruction to workers to protect their health and safety, and take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers.

7. Occupational Illness and Diseases

Some of the more common occupational diseases and illnesses include asthma, skin disease (dermatitis) and occupational infections. In dentistry, the most likely disease is irritant contact dermatitis, which may result from exposure to wet work associated with frequent hand washing and glove use. Health care workers are also at risk for developing allergic contact dermatitis that may be caused by exposure to sensitizers found in rubber gloves. Inspectors, like in other areas, will be looking at employer prevention initiatives and provision of all necessary information to employees regarding these risks.

For more information on occupational health hazards and illnesses, click here.

8. Reporting Occupational Illness and Diseases

Every dentist employer must report notify the Ministry of Labour in the event of a workplace injury or illness including:

  • providing immediate notice of any critical injuries or fatalities
  • provide a written report of any occupational incident within 48 hours
  • provide a written report of any occupational illness within 4 days of learning of the illness

For a better idea about how to investigate an incident for the purposes of providing a report to the Ministry of Labour, click here.

9. Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)

WHMIS is designed to give employers information about hazardous substances used in the workplace. In order for employers to comply with WHMIS they must do the following:

  • provide instruction and training which is developed and implemented in consultation with the workplace Health and Safety Representative or Joint Health and Safety Committee (this includes information and instruction on product labels, Material Safety Data Sheets,etc.)
  • periodic review and updating of the training

For information about eligible WHMIS training, click here.

10. Personal Protective Equipment

Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE“) is sometimes the difference between life and death. Employers are responsible to ensure that PPE is provided and maintained in good condition and is used as required. Employees are responsible for using the PPE, and ensuring that all PPE is used as trained/instructed.

PPE can include anything from gloves, masks, eye protection, foot protection, gowns, etc.

Inspectors will be checking that employers and supervisors have selected PPE that is appropriate for the hazard and that the equipment is providing an appropriate level of protection for the workers.

11. Vulnerable Workers (Including New and Young Workers)

It is considered that young and new workers are at greater risk of workplace injury and illness due to lack of knowledge, training, and fear of being let go.

For this reason, Ministry inspectors will be paying special attention to health and safety measures taken to prevent injuries in new and young workers, which may include training, supervision, special PPE, etc. For more information, click here.

12. Emergency Management

Under the OHSA, dental offices must:

  • take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers from hazards at all times, including during an emergency
  • provide information, instruction and supervision about emergencies

Inspections focus on emergency preparedness, response and recovery. This may include things like availability of written policies, fire escape routes, clear posting of emergency procedures, regular drills, etc. For more information on emergency management, click here.

Are You Prepared?

Having read this blog, what do you think? Are you prepared? Here is a quick health and safety survey to see where your office ranks:  Ten Minute Health and Safety Program Check. If you didn’t do so great, please feel free to contact us. We’re happy to help!

If you need legal advice, contact us today. We are your legal dental team.

The Content of this post is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be legal, financial, tax, or other professional advice of any kind. You are advised to contact DMC (or other counsel) to seek specific legal advice concerning your individual situation.