Employers play a key role in preventing work-related injuries and promoting safe and healthy workplaces. Ensuring the health and safety of the people you employ isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s the law. In Canada, if your business is federally regulated (e.g., banks, broadcasting, inter-provincial transport, mining, energy ++), your legal obligations fall under Part II of the Canada Labour Code. If your business isn’t federally regulated, then you are governed by the applicable Employment Standards and Occupational Health and Safety Acts legislated in the province or territory where your business operates. This legislation establishes the responsibilities of the employer and the rights of the employee. They also establish procedures for dealing with workplace hazards and enforce the law where an employer has not voluntarily complied. The bottom line – as an employer, you are legally required to prevent injury and disease, to maintain a healthy and safe workplace and provide employees with hazard information, proper safety equipment, training, competent supervision and to ensure your employees are complying with established safety standards.
Make Safety a Priority
Safety should be a priority for every business because a proactive approach to injury prevention and treatment demonstrates a strong commitment to the well-being of one of your most valuable assets – your employees. The Association of Workers’ Compensation Board of Canada reports approximately 1,000 annual job-related deaths. However, a study conducted by the University of Ottawa in 2019 found that annual-job related deaths could be up to 10 times higher than reported. There are also staggering financial costs associated with workplace injuries and deaths. The Government of Canada estimates that preventable injuries cost the Canadian economy $29.4 billion in a single year, including $20.4 billion in direct health-care costs. Then there is the human cost of injury (loss of health and well-being, disabilities ++), along with indirect impacts to business (lost productivity, lowered employee morale, diminished public opinion), that needs to be considered. No matter which way you look at it, making safety a priority simply makes good business sense.
General Employer Responsibilities & Injury Reporting Protocols
As an employer, you are responsible for protecting the health and safety of your employees while at work. That means you are required to implement preventative measures to ensure employees are not exposed to conditions that could be harmful to their health or safety. While occupational health and safety legislation across Canada contains many of the same basic employer responsibilities, the details of the legislation and how the laws are enforced can vary from one jurisdiction to another.
Below is a list of responsibilities that employers are required to provide, which you can use as a general ‘checklist’ when assessing workplace health and safety practices:
Provide safe entry to, exit from and occupancy of the workplace.
Take every reasonable precaution to ensure a safe workplace.
Provide first aid facilities and health services, sanitary and personal facilities, and safe drinking water.
Provide information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure the health and safety of employees at work.
Establish and maintain a health and safety committee or select at least one health and safety representative.
Train employees on potential hazards and how to safely use, handle, store and dispose of hazardous substances, as well as how to handle emergencies.
Train employees on the safe use and handling of equipment.
Train supervisors and managers on their responsibilities for Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S).
Ensure employees use any required personal protective equipment.
Appoint a competent supervisor capable of setting performance standards and ensuring safe working conditions are always observed.
Provide access to a copy of applicable OH&S regulations and how to access it, also when/where necessary, provide OH&S training.
Immediately report all critical injuries (see Reporting Protocols).
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are expected to take on additional responsibilities to protect employees, including:
Increasing communication to employees and customers about COVID-19 preventative measures you are taking.
Posting signs to encourage good respiratory hygiene, hand hygiene and other health practices.
Providing personal protective gear (PPE) to help prevent potential exposure to infection (e.g., gloves, eye protection, masks or face shields) and train employees on proper use.
Providing access to handwashing facilities, and placing hand sanitizing dispensers in prominent locations throughout the workplace.
Ensuring high traffic work areas or frequently touched surfaces are cleaned and disinfected regularly.
Ensuring employees have access to cleaning and disinfecting supplies to maintain a clean and safe workspace.
Adjusting policies and procedures to reduce social contact, where feasible (ie: remote work arrangements, flexible hours, staggering start times, use of videoconferencing ++).
Implementing physical distancing measures like increasing the distance between desks and workstations. Limit people lineups or groups.
If in doubt, or if you are just establishing operation in a new jurisdiction, it’s always best to consult with an employment lawyer familiar with the OH&S legislation in that area.
Listed below are general injury reporting requirements. Each jurisdiction in Canada has specific requirements, so it’s best to check with the individual workers’ compensation boards to obtain further information and clarification. You can also visit the Government of Canada’s Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety to review OH&S injury reporting requirements for each jurisdiction. In all jurisdictions, as soon as you are aware an employee has been injured or has fallen ill, you are required by law to submit an employer report to the Workers’ Compensation Board within your jurisdiction. Generally, reports must be submitted if an accident results in, or is likely to result in:
Lost time or the need to temporarily (or permanently) modify work after the date of the accident.
Loss of consciousness, permanent disability (hearing loss, amputation, loss of vision) or death.
A disabling or potentially disabling condition caused by occupational exposure or activity (poisoning, infection, respiratory disease, etc.). This includes reporting known cases of employees confirmed to be infected with COVID-19.
Medical treatment beyond first aid (physician assessment, physiotherapy or chiropractic ++.).
Incurs medical aid expense (repair or replacement of eyeglasses, dental treatment, prescription medications ++.).
Develops symptoms of mental health disorders related to work or the work environment.
It’s advisable to become familiar with the reporting requirements, and timeframes for submitting reports associated with the Workers’ Compensation Board in the jurisdiction you operate in to ensure compliance.
Our workplaces have become more diverse, which can inadvertently create barriers to work safety. The nature of employment continues to change and the traditional relationships between employer and employee are shifting (ie:, remote workers, temporary or contract workers), and work is becoming more automated. As the workplace continues to evolve, there is a growing need for proactive injury prevention, workplace safety and treatment programs. If you need help navigating the jurisdictional requirements associated with workplace occupational health and safety, your responsibilities, along with reporting protocols, Vexxit can match you with an employment lawyer familiar with the various nuances within your jurisdiction.