Why the Ministry May Target Your Workplace

By Carola Mittag

Posted Jan 30th, 2020 in Tips & News

Why the Ministry May Target Your Workplace

Every year, Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) Inspectors hand out thousands of orders for non-compliance. In 2018 alone, inspectors issued 17,534 orders.

If you're like most executives and managers, you are increasingly concerned about a Ministry Inspector unexpectedly knocking on your door to conduct an inspection. It can happen anywhere, at any time, and for many different reasons. This briefing explains 6 different reasons "why" you might expect a knock on your door, listed in the priority order in which an Inspector would investigate/inspect. *Remember, an employer will not be given prior notice of an inspection. Ministry inspections are initiated by surprise.

1.     Imminent Danger

This occurs when the Ministry receives a report where death or serious harm is threatened AND it is reasonably likely that a serious accident could occur immediately -- OR, if not immediately, then before correction would otherwise be implemented. This most commonly occurs in construction (but also general industry) safety issues related to trenches/excavations, equipment lockout / tagout, fall from heights, or other dangerous scenarios. 
It may also apply to health issues where chemical exposures are Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH) or cause significant harm/impairment. An example would be entering a confined space, such as a fermentation tank in a winery or brewery that has a high carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration level. When the Ministry receives a report of activities that may pose imminent danger, an Inspector is dispatched as quickly as possible (same day) to investigate.

2.     Fatality / Serious Accident

The Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to report fatalities and “critical injuries” to the Ontario Ministry of Labour. Critical injuries are defined as an injury of a serious nature that,
  • places life in jeopardy,
  • produces unconsciousness,
  • results in substantial loss of blood,
  •  involves the fracture of a leg or arm but not a finger or toe,
  • involves the amputation of a leg, arm, hand or foot but not a finger or toe,
  • consists of burns to a major portion of the body, or
  • causes the loss of sight in an eye.

3.     Complaint

Employees have the legal right to file a safety violation complaint with the MLTSD without fear of reprisal. How the Ministry responds to the complaint varies depending on the specificity of the concern(s), seriousness of the health and safety issue(s) raised, and other factors. 

Employee complaints are often the single most common reason why a workplace inspection is initiated. Employers who take health and safety of their employees seriously, by responding to employee concerns, issues, hazards, etc., have a lower risk of being inspected in the first place. 

Although there are cases where disgruntled employees file "nuisance" complaints with the Ministry, all complaints are taken seriously and presumed to have merit until facts suggest otherwise. An employer is best served to resolve health and safety issues proactively.

Conducting workplace health and safety audits, implementing a safety program, and providing employee safety training specific to your operational / business environment are the surest ways to achieve compliance and reduce the risk of an inspection. Studies have shown that other benefits to safety performance include lower insurance costs, improved employee morale, lower turnover and increased productivity. 

4.     Referral

Referrals for an MLTSD inspection can originate from many different sources, not just current or former employees. If you allow the public into your facility, be 'extra sure' that everything is being done safely. You never know who might call the Ministry if they see workers exposed to serious hazards. Examples of referral inspections may include: 

  • Media stories of an accident or unsafe conditions
  • Inspector driving by a worksite and observing possible violations from the street 
  • Health departments
  • Police and/or fire departments

5.     Programmed Inspections

Programmed inspections/planned blitzes, that theoretically follow 'surprise’ site selection, typically target specific, high-hazard and higher injury rate industries, workplaces, occupations or safety/health hazards. 

An Inspector who shows up to conduct an inspection, might be more likely to have a negative preconception of a site's safety compliance because of the high injury rates reported. They'll tend to be far more observant and inquisitive than usual as they walk through your facility.

6.     Follow Up

A follow up inspection determines if a previously cited employer has corrected violations documented in an earlier inspection. If an employer fails to correct a cited violation, he/she will be subject to additional penalties until the violation is corrected. 

How to Reduce Enforcement Risk (And Protect Your Employees)

There are two aspects to reducing risks associated with an inspection. 1) Reduce the likelihood of being inspected, and 2) Reduce the severity of possible violations, i.e. be in compliance.

  1. The best way to reduce the likelihood of an inspection is to prevent serious workplace accidents (fatalities, serious injuries) which, aside from the personal and financial costs, trigger an inspection. 
  2. The most effective way to minimize the severity of an inspection is to:
    a.     conduct expert audit(s),
    b.     implement safety programs, and
    c.     provide employee training.

WSG is proud of its record in that clients who have used our auditing services have received above average results.
Contact Us now if you have any questions.

Get an evaluation of your workplace and get on track with safety and compliance.

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