More than one-half of business officers, directors trained in health, safety: Survey

It is well-known leaders drive the health and safety culture of a workplace. Just slightly more than one-half (55 per cent) of officers and directors in companies across Canada are trained on their organization’s occupational health and safety policy and program, found a survey by Fasken Martineau, a national business law firm.
On the other hand, 70 per cent of workers have been trained, found the employer occupational health and safety survey, Building a Safer Workplace, which had 416 respondents.

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“It’s disappointing. The leaders of organizations, including directors and officers, in Canada do not seem to be generally p\utting as much importance on workplace health and safety as the law requires,” said Norm Keith, partner at Fasken Martineau in Toronto. “There is some pretty detailed responsibility and accountability that directors and officers have, so if they are not aware of that through training, that’s a real gap that is serious.”

Alcohol and drug use is a health and safety concern for many employers across the country. This topic has gained traction recently with increasing discussions around the decriminalization of marijuana in the United States and Canada. Workplace testing for alcohol and drug use is often a contentious issue. Three-quarters (75 per cent) of survey respondents do not conduct random testing of workers in safety sensitive positions, compared to nine per cent that do.

In the last 12 months, 41 per cent of employers had a situation where a worker was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at work. Most employers (81 per cent) have an employee assistance program to help workers with substance abuse issues.

Employers are required to develop a workplace violence and harassment prevention program and provide information and instruction to employees on its contents. While 93 per cent of respondents have a violence and harassment policy, only 33 per cent had conducted a risk assessment in the last 12 months. In Ontario, for example, legislation requires employers to review their health and safety policy and program annually — which includes violence and harassment — but it is silent on the frequency of risk assessments.

“A prudent and responsible employer is going to say, ‘Look, what’s the point of reviewing the paper policy if I am not really going to update the risk assessment?’” said Keith. “I think it’s a useful thing to give to a joint health and safety committee to do annually.”

More than one-half (53 per cent) of employers reported receiving a complaint of workplace violence or harassment in the last 12 months.

Government health and safety inspectors enforce OHS legislation across Canada, conducting routine inspections to verify compliance. Nearly one-half (46 per cent) of survey respondents had been visited by an OHS officer in the last 12 months. One-third (33 per cent) of employers had been given an order or a direction by an inspector in the last year. More than 80 per cent of survey respondents had not appealed an order or direction in the past 12 months.