You'll never live long enough to make enough mistakes to learn everything you need to know. Take it from a Ministry of Labour inspector (who sees a lot of mistakes) -- a robust health and safety culture is a wise investment.
What you think of when you hear the words “Ministry of Labour Inspector”? Do you think of someone who’s trying to help you avoid WSIB claims? Do you see an organization trying to level the playing field between employers? Is this a person who is going to help increase awareness of health and safety issues and support a positive health and safety culture in your organization? This is how Ministry of Labour Inspectors, such as our guest speaker, Bob vanWyk, see themselves. Their job is to use the tools of legislative compliance to increase safety for all Ontarians.
In many cases, inspectors have no choice when they come and visit an employer. They are responding in a reactive way, based on an incident or complaint. At other times, inspectors act more proactively. They select businesses to inspect based on field intelligence (observations while out in the community). They tend to revisit companies that they have visited before, use various filters on their database of companies, and look for companies that are not yet in their database. They also select companies based on sector plans. Sector plans are determined by the Ministry on an annual basis, and take place in short blitzes and in longer, provincial initiatives.
The sector focuses this year include a couple of perennial favourites: machine guarding and slips, trips, and falls. The Ministry is also continuing to focus on vulnerable workers, including young workers, aged workers, and people who are new to Canada. They are looking at new and small businesses, which may not be aware of health and safety regulations. This year they are also starting to look at noise and struck-by incidents. They will also be investigating electrical hazards.
Bob offered a number of health and safety tips to help an organization achieve the enviable safety culture that we’re all striving for. He spoke quite a bit about safety standards that are unique to your organization. He stressed that the legislative standards are just a minimum. He also spoke about how any person coming into your facility is required to meet your safety standards. New hires have to meet the standards that you have set, not the standards from their previous place of work. Contractors have to meet your standards, not the standards of their own organization.
A joint health and safety committee that is developing its standards has many resources at its disposal. Health and safety associations have a lot of material to help you. The Ministry of Labour’s own contact center can provide general information. Joining a safety group, such as EMC's manufacturers-only safety group, will provide structure and support. With a little research, checking into the health and safety regulatory agencies in other jurisdictions can also be helpful (just make sure that their standards meet the minimum Ontario standards, and that the situations match what is in your plant). Looking at court cases also helps you by learning from the mistakes of others, and, sadly, dealing with your own Ministry tickets helps you learn from your own mistakes.
To close, thanks to the EMC members who joined us, for contributing to lively discussions during and after the session. The questions and experiences you shared helped all of us proceed further on our safety journey. Thanks very much to our hosts at Mancor Canada Inc. for hosting the event and to Bob Van Wyk for speaking to our group.
If you find these abbreviated notes intriguing, be sure to sign up early for future SIGs so you can take part in the discussions and get all the details.