When the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014 came into effect in Ontario last November, the definition of “worker” under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) became far more broad, and made Ontario’s definition more consistent with the definition used across Canada. Employers must know this definition if they’re going to comply with the regulations and avoid huge penalties.
Under the OHSA in previous years, only those employees who performed work or a service for pay were defined as “workers.” What that meant was, those who were not paid were not covered under the OHSA. However, with the new definition of “worker” the OHSA applies to additional workers, such as these:
- Those employees who performs work or supplies services for pay or other compensation.
- A student, whether in a secondary school or college, who works or provides services for no pay or other compensation, if it’s part of an authorized work experience program approved by a school board or any program approved by any post-secondary institution, such as a college or university.
- Someone who receives training from an employer, but who is not an “employee,” as defined by the Employment Standards Act (ESA), but who meets certain conditions.
- Any other person who works or provides services to an employer for no pay or other compensation.
Under this expanded definition, all workers, whether they are paid or unpaid, are entitled to the same rights under the OHSA. It also makes all workers responsible for knowing their duties under the OHSA. It also means all workers, whether paid or not, are entitled to be properly trained, informed and supervised in a way that protects their health and safety.
This expanded definition is not exclusive to Ontario; some form of this definition has been in place for some time in most other provinces. But no matter where your main business is located, ensuring that all workers, whether they’re paid or not, receive the same treatment and the same protection in the workplace. Training workers and making them aware of workplace hazards is a prudent move for any employer, and will prevent your workers, your reputation and your bottom line.