Violence, harassment top OHS infraction in Ontario

Plus, accreditation and recognition program coming soon

Violence, harassment top OHS infraction in Ontario
Ontario Ministry of Labour will be focusing on violence and harassment in schools and hospitals this year. Shutterstock

For the second year in a row, violence and harassment tops the list of violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in Ontario. In 2018, the Ministry of Labour issued 14,400 compliance orders for violence and harassment — something the assistant deputy minister finds troubling.


“You would think in this day and age we would have a handle on this,” said Peter Augruso, speaking at the Partners in Prevention conference, presented by Workplace Safety and Prevention Services, in Mississauga, Ont. on April 30. “Last year it was number 1 as well and I thought it was a blip because the number 1 has always been falls. I thought, ‘OK, it’s only been a year in the legislation so policies and programs aren’t matured, employers aren’t putting those in place, they aren’t training their staff, this year we should see a reduction.’ Instead we saw an increase.”


For the 2019-2020 year, the Ministry of Labour and its system partners are going to make a concerted effort to address violence and harassment in the workplace. Schools and hospitals are going to be the main focus since the majority of complaints come from these sectors, Augruso said.


Coming in at number two on the top 10 list was fall protection with 9,500 orders issued. Nearly one-third (31 per cent) of tickets issued in the construction sector were for lack of fall protection.


However, Augruso has seen a “huge increase” in individuals working within the acts and regulations — such as the workers building a condo tower next to his office in downtown Toronto.


“There was a guy working on 20th floor, nobody in sight, no one is going to see if this guy is cheating, but I was so happy to see he had a harness on, a fall restraint system. I wanted to go over there and shake his hand and say, ‘Great job,’” Augruso said. “No one else was looking because there was no one else on the floor, but for me it was very heartwarming to see the message is getting out — folks are actually listening.”


Rounding out the top three was lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) with 8,600 orders. As a result, PPE is one of the MOL’s initiatives — formerly known as blitzes — across all sectors, taking place now until March 2020. See sidebar for complete top 10 list.


Something Augruso wants to clear up is the fact that an order is not a bad thing.


“I look at orders as a gift,” he said. “It’s a gift to you because something you didn’t see, we saw, and we are giving you an opportunity to fix it. We aren’t going to court, we aren’t prosecuting — that’s not the Ministry of Labour’s way.”


The ministry is striving to be open and transparent, and provides many tools, calculators and resources on its website to help employers be in compliance with the OHS act and regulations.



An accreditation and recognition program is coming soon for employers in Ontario, delegates heard from Augruso at the conference. There are certain health and safety management systems that employers have in place that are equivalent to the Ontario act and regulations. Under the new program, the management system could be accredited by the Ministry of Labour. The employer can also be recognized for this accomplishment and would qualify for a rebate on its Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) premiums, Augruso said.


“It’s not good enough to say you have it. If you have one, we will say, ‘OK, you’re accredited, if you want to be recognized you need a third-party auditor to come in and audit. Once you’ve passed the audit, now you qualify for the WSIB rebate,’” he said. “It’s a great thing for Ontario and a great thing for the Ministry of Labour to come out in front of that.”


The ministry is also working on updating some sections of the act using plain language, so that it is easier to understand. It is hiring summer students who will visit 10,000 small businesses across the province to give them information about the OHS act. It has also partnered with SkillsPass to provide electronic certificates for its Working at Heights and Joint Health and Safety Committee Certification training.


“Right now we ask employers to keep a big binder of these at a job site and then they will go through them one at a time to try and find (a worker)… and sometimes there’s over 500 workers in these binders,” Augruso said. “This will be so much easier for employers, for my inspectors because they can quickly look it up and scan the person’s phone and check their records.”



Top 10 issues and violations for 2018:

1. Workplace violence and harassment (14,400 orders)

2. Falls protection (9,500)

3. Lack of personal protective equipment (8,600)

4. Administrative (7,700)

5. Health and safety representative and JHSC (7,100)

6. Improper access and egress (7,000)

7. Basic occupational health and safety awareness training (6,600)

8. Housekeeping/work surfaces (4,700)

9. Lack of equipment, material, and protective device maintenance (4,600)

10. Lack of machine/equipment guarding (4,400)