I’m constantly monitoring the Government of Ontario newsrooms for recent health and safety fines issued by the courts for failing to comply with health and safety legislation.
I picked up on one story of an Ottawa coffee shop being fined $60,000 for failing to comply with very basic health and safety requirements, which ended up making headlines on CBC news.
It left me thinking, $60,000 is a lot of money for a small business to pay and was it worth it? The orders they were repeatedly in non-compliance for, were very easy to put in place. For example, they were fined for failing to provide general health and safety awareness training to employees and supervisors. This training is free from the Ministry of Labour in Ontario. It’s unfortunate that this company will now learn the hard way that complying with health and safety legislation is not an option.
First off, let me tip my hat to anyone who owns a business and has employees to manage. It’s strenuous, challenging, it can be full of ups and downs. There’s so much to know, learn, and there are many laws to comply with. There are many requirements for health and safety compliance and most business owners have a difficult time knowing and understanding the requirements. Most business schools don’t teach you about health, safety and worker’s compensation requirements leaving business owners to figure it out themselves.
It doesn’t matter how big or small your organization is, there are very few exceptions when it comes to health and safety legislation compliance. If you’re a small business, it can feel overwhelming because you don’t know where to start planning for managing health and safety. You can start by reading this article and taking the time to check out the links provided. Every province should have resources available for any business and will usually have special sections, tools or resources geared towards small businesses, I’ll include a few to at least get you started.
For example, Ontario has provided a simple minimum compliance safety checklist that is easily transferable to any province, you simply follow the questions and it provides you guidance on minimum compliance.
The Small Business Safety Toolkit from Nova Scotia provides information on getting started, identifying and controlling workplace hazards, learning from experience, additional resources and more.
The Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA) has put together a comprehensive Small Business Health and Safety Resource Manual and although it refers to specific sections of Ontario’s Health and Safety Act, I can tell you from working in multiple provinces across Canada, that are very similar to the requirements in other provinces. The sections on Incident/ Accident reporting, investigations, training and education are useful for any company to consider implementing.
Last but certainly not least, one of my latest favourite websites is Safe Manitoba where you can find the Safety and Health Guide for Small Businesses, which provides similar resources to what you can find in the PSHSA document but goes into more detail and provides some great sample policies.
There are more and more suggestions I could provide, many of the construction associations across the country provide excellent tools, resources, training and more, all free of charge. Some worker’s compensation boards provide help and support to small businesses so they can learn and understand the compensation system, and the many incentive programs designed to encourage and help organizations manage health and safety. What is clear is that governments are providing more support programs for small businesses to assist them in health and safety management.
Lee-Anne Lyon-Bartley also lovingly known as “The Safety Diva Canada” is currently the Supervisor of Health, Safety, and Wellness at The Region of Peel.