Toronto (Canada) – Fasken Martineau today released the results of its annual employer Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) survey which reveals that many Canadian companies could be at risk for OHS legislation violations, which not only jeopardize workers’ safety but can also result in severe penalties for employers. The Good, the Bad and the Troubling, found that more than 40 per cent of responders from 358 employers nationwide do not ensure that all employees are trained on the company’s OHS policy and program, and are therefore vulnerable to several potentially crippling liabilities.
While the majority of Canadian organizations are aware of legal OHS requirements, many are not equipped to enforce them. The crucial areas of concern centre on the OHS policies and programs themselves, which are now being enforced at an increasingly aggressive rate; the use of alcohol and drugs in the workplace, which is anticipated to become muddied by the legalization of marijuana; harassment and violence in the workplace, whose definition was recently expanded to include new requirements around sexual harassment claims; and OHS inspectors and enforcement, who can now impose an Administrative Monetary Penalty (AMP) or prosecute under the Criminal Code, if they discover a violation.
“In addition to the personal dangers workers face when employers are not adequately educated and trained, failing to comply with OHS requirements leaves organizations at risk of regulatory investigations, damaging charges, costly fines and even jail terms,” said Norm Keith, Partner at Fasken Martineau and leading occupational health and safety defense lawyer in Canada. “Many Canadian employers are still unaware of the legislation’s details, and are unclear about their legal rights in situations that are ever evolving and often tricky.”
Key findings in Fasken Martineau’s report include:
Alcohol and Drugs in the Workplace
- More than half of responders (53 per cent) suspected that a worker was under the influence of alcohol and/or nonprescription drugs while at work in the last 12 months.
- Sixty per cent of responders’ managers and supervisors are not trained to identify workers that may be under the influence of alcohol and/or non-prescription drugs in the workplace.
Harassment and Violence in the Workplace
- Half of Canadian companies (50 per cent) have not conducted a workplace harassment and violence risk assessment in the last 12 months.
- Almost half of organizations (46 per cent) have not provided every manager, supervisor and worker with training about domestic and/or sexual violence in the workplace.
OHS Policies and Programs
- Only one third of responders (34 per cent) work at an organization that formally trained every worker, contractor and sub-contractor on its OHS policy and program.
- Two thirds (66 per cent) of responders work at organizations that risk not only OHS violations, but the lives and safety of its workers as well.
OHS Inspectors and Enforcement
- Nearly half of employers (49 per cent) received a visit from an OHS Inspector in the last 24 months.
- The majority of responders (55 per cent) reported that their organization did not provide managers and/or supervisors with training for what to do when an OHS inspector visits their workplace.
“Establishing effective and customized OHS policies and procedures is the first step in creating a lasting commitment to safety,” continued Norm Keith. “By training and auditing on OHS compliance, Fasken Martineau is able to help organizations build and maintain healthy workplaces that prioritize the wellbeing of employees, while mitigating costly penalties and criminal charges that may accompany OHS violations.”
Unfortunately, many Canadian companies currently do not receive a passing grade when it comes to OHS legal compliance, and enforcement of OHS legislation by regulators and the Court is only expected to increase. Consequently, employers need to take immediate action to better prepare them for the changes that undoubtedly lie ahead by seeking comprehensive training, consulting and legal advice in these areas.
Download a copy of Fasken Martineau’s 2017 Employer OHS Survey Report, The Good, the Bad and the Troubling.
Fasken Martineau’s 2017 Employer Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Survey was conducted among 358 employers nationwide, with the highest percentage of responses coming from employers in Ontario, Québec and British Columbia. Approximately 33 per cent of responders worked for large organizations with 1,000 or more workers.
About Fasken Martineau
Fasken Martineau is a leading international business law and litigation firm. With more than 700 lawyers, the firm has offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal, Québec City, London and Johannesburg. For additional information, please visit the firm's website at fasken.com.