If it seems as if a safety inspector hasn’t visited your Ontario workplace in a while, it’s not your imagination. According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s (MOL) latest Annual Report, in 2014-2015, the number of field visits by MOL inspectors declined a bit last year, to 70,604 total, which was down from 73,204 in 2013-2014. That total is down 30 per cent from the highest number ever recorded, 101,275 in 2007-2008. In fact, it marked the lowest number of inspections in 11 years.
That doesn’t mean employers can breathe a sigh of relief, however. While the number of field visits to workplaces to enforce the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) were lower, the number of convictions actually increased. In 2014-2015, there were 817 convictions for OHSA violations, up from 780 in 2013-2014, which means the MOL was more successful in its prosecutions, whether they won at trial or obtained a guilty plea. The upswing in the number of convictions actually reverses a trend, after six years of declines.
With an increase in the number of convictions, however, came a slight decrease in the average fine in 2014-2015, with each conviction costing an average of $11,463.73, slightly down from the average of $11,932.00 in 2013-2014.
As a result of this activity, the number of workplace injuries described as “critical” was down slightly in 2014, but there hasn’t been a significant drop in years. In addition, there were 81 fatalities due to workplace trauma in 2014, which was down significantly from the 102 in 2013, but close to the ten-year average of 88. It’s clear that the MOL will have to take some steps to increase inspections and scrutiny to make a real dent in those numbers.