The Ontario Ministry of Labour has a strong motivation to keep workers safe, by making sure that all workplaces are in compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations. It is because of this that the ministry conducts a large number of workplace inspection blitzes.
Most established businesses within the province are quite aware of the Ontario Ministry of Labour and its practices, including these inspection blitzes. However, based on statistics recently released by the Ministry regarding blitzes conducted between April 2013 in March 2014, it would seem that many small businesses are not. One of the key elements of running any business in Ontario is workplace safety. You should consider it to be as important as your business license.
During that time period, inspectors with the Ministry of Labour conducted just under 1,200 workplace inspections of businesses with fewer than 20 workers that had recently registered their business with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), but had no prior contact with the Ministry of Labour before the blitz inspection. As result of these inspections, a surprisingly large number of new businesses were issued a large number of MoL orders, mostly for failing to deliver on the basics, such as an Internal Responsibility System (IRS), which clearly sets out the responsibilities of each worker, supervisor and manager for helping to maintain a workplace that is safe and healthy for everyone.
In all, inspectors made 1,589 field visits to 1,190 small businesses, and issued 4,014 orders for violations of the OHSA and its regulations, including 58 stop work orders, which is not the way you want to start your business life. Nearly half of those orders were related to the lack of an IRS, while 23% of those orders were issued because the workplace failed to develop a policy for addressing workplace violence and harassment. Nearly 20% of the orders were given because employers failed to train workers on safety or they failed to prominently post OHSA programs and policies somewhere in the workplace.
If you are planning a new small business, it is very important that you are ready willing and able to show compliance with the OHSA. That means it is essential that your workplace have an established IRS, and that your workers have been properly trained. They should be able to identify and control hazards, but they should also be aware of their rights under the OHSA. Most of these orders could have been avoided by just being aware of your responsibilities as a new small business owner.