Ontario’s MOL to focus on vulnerable workers

Ontario’s Ministry of Labour (MOL) will be targeting workplaces with vulnerable workers for 2014-15, as revealed at Partners in Prevention 2014, Canada's largest health and safety conference and trade show.
After extensive stakeholder consultations, the MOL found more work needs to be done with vulnerable workers, which includes Aboriginal Peoples, youth, immigrants, those who have been out of work long-term, people with disabilities and social assistance recipients.

The stakeholders identified literacy and language barriers, and said more outreach needed to be done with this group.

“Maybe we could work with church organizations; there are a lot of organizations out there that support vulnerable workers and we should be tapping into them to get information out,” said Carol Sackville-Duyvelshoff, the director of the ministry's OHS branch, speaking at the conference in Mississauga, Ont., on April 29, which is hosted by Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS).

In its 2013 blitz of new and young workers — a segment of the “vulnerable worker” population — the MOL issued 8,139 orders and 195 stop work orders for employers in the industrial sector alone. This blitz focused on workers aged 14 to 24, or 25 years or older who have been in the workplace for less than six months or who have been reassigned to a new job.

The most common orders issued were to maintain equipment in good working condition and provide information, instruction and supervision.

As a result of the high number of orders, the MOL is launching another new and young worker blitz from May to August of this year.

Small businesses

Small business is another priority for Ontario's Ministry of Labour in 2014-15. The stakeholder consultations in 2013 revealed small businesses need help complying with occupational health and safety legislation.

“What we heard from small businesses is ‘We’re really busy, we don’t have a lot of time, we’re trying to keep our business alive, can you just tell us very simply how to become compliant with the act,” said Sackville-Duyvelshoff.

The MOL released two new inspection videos in 2013 to help companies understand what an inspector is looking for when they come on site. It now has 19 inspector videos and also has 20 podcasts and two interactive tools on its website. But small business owners are asking for information in other ways.

“They said ‘Resources on the web are good, but can you look at other channels because we’re not always sitting in front of our computers,’” said Sackville-Duyvelshoff.

Rounding out the upcoming areas of focus for the MOL after vulnerable workers and small businesses are high hazard areas, collaborative partnerships, integrated service delivery and promoting the health and safety culture, she said.

“All the activities we’re doing in 2014-15 link back to these six priorities.”