Ontario seeks improvements to OHS system

Ontario will embark on a comprehensive review of the province's occupational health and safety prevention and enforcement system, and is appointing a University of Toronto professor to lead the initiative, the Ministry of Labour announced yesterday.

Tony Dean, a professor in the School of Public Policy and Governance at U of T, will be appointed chair of the expert advisory panel being formed to conduct the review. The Ministry of Labour said the panel will be comprised of "safety experts from labour groups, employers and academic institutions."

Dean is also a senior research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School, a former secretary of the cabinet and has served as deputy minister of labour.

The panel will make recommendations for structural, operational and policy improvements, the ministry said.

"The panel will research best-in-class approaches to improving workplace safety in national and international jurisdictions and will look at a range of issues including: continuum of safety practices in a workplace and entry-level safety training; impact of the underground economy on health and safety practices; and, how existing legislation serves worker safety," the ministry statement said.

The Institute for Work and Health, an independent occupational health and safety research centre based in Toronto, will also provide support for the review.

The expert advisory panel is expected to report on its review and recommendations by fall this year.

Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan welcomed the move, disclosing in a statement that labour minister Peter Fonseca has already called him to ask for his organization's participation.

"Certainly this sort of broad-based, wide ranging systemic review is what the labour movement has long been calling for. It's got to be about more than looking at individual incidents. We need to look at all of the elements of the system, and the role of all of the stakeholders involved, and then figure out which changes will save lives in the workplace," Ryan said in a statement issued by the OFL.