Each year Ontario’s Ministry of Labour (the “Ministry”) schedules inspection blitzes and launches various initiatives in specific sectors to ensure that employers in Ontario are abiding by Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”) and the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”).
While individual workplaces are not notified in advance, the Ministry posts a schedule identifying the areas of focus of planned blitzes. The 2017/2018 schedule identifies the following ongoing blitzes:
Beginning May 1, 2017 until August 31, 2017, an employment standards blitz focusing on new and young workers will target food services and drinking places; retail trade; amusement, gambling and recreation industries; services to buildings and dwellings; and other sectors known to employ young and new workers.
Beginning May 1, 2017 until August 31, 2017, a health and safety blitz focusing on new and young workers will target the industrial sector.
Beginning May 1, 2017 until August 31, 2017, an employment standards blitz focusing on hours of work will target construction; transportation and warehousing; services to buildings and dwellings; retail trade; and other sectors known to have a high number of hours worked.
Beginning June 1, 2017 until July 31, 2017, a health and safety blitz focusing on supervisor awareness and accountability will target the construction sector.
Beginning July 1, 2017 until August 31, 2017, a health and safety blitz focusing on occupational disease in mines and mining plants will target the mining sector.
Where a violation of the ESA is found, an employment standards officer may issue a non-monetary Compliance Order or, where monetary contraventions are found and voluntary compliance is not achieved, an officer may issue an Order to pay wages. Employment standards officers also have the power to issue Notices of Contravention with prescribed penalties starting at $250 where they believe an employer has contravened the ESA. In some circumstances, employment standards officers may initiate a prosecution under Part I (tickets) of the Provincial Offences Act. Such tickets involve a fine and may include a victim fine surcharge.
Where a violation of the OHSA is found, a Ministry inspector may issue a variety of orders under the OHSA and its regulations, including stop work orders. Inspectors can also issue tickets under the Provincial Offences Act or initiate prosecution for non-compliance.
Employers are well advised to review their practices with respect to health and safety and employment standards compliance, particularly with respect to the areas identified above, in order to be prepared for a Ministry of Labour inspection.