Since the appointment of a Chief Prevention Officer in Ontario, health and safety training standards are high on the MOL’s priority list. It’s about time, I say. During my years as an Inspector I found that many training programs were inadequate or downright dangerous. Dangerous because they did not provide all the information workers needed to work safely. Inadequate because they did not provide workers or supervisors with critical information about their rights, duties or responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) or it’s Regulations.
Take WHMIS for example. In my last post about training, I wrote that suppliers of chemicals often would perform WHMIS training in workplaces that purchased their industrial chemicals. Workers, when asked how they would use a chemical safely, or what to do in the event of a spill, didn’t have a clue. And if language wasn’t enough of a barrier to their knowledge, their knowledge of what protective equipment they should use, the health hazards, first aid or how to store or use the chemical, was sadly lacking. But would the development of training standards help? Perhaps by ensuring that only training providers who meet a certain criteria could provide training, and secondly by ensuring that trainers themselves met certain qualifications.
Standards developed or legislated by the MOL over the years have been a welcome addition to health and safety programs for safety professionals. First there were standards set out in the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) document entitled “Certification Standards for Joint Health and Safety Committees. The current JHSC Certification Training Program Standard specifies the criteria that a program must meet in order to be approved by the Chief Prevention Officer (CPO).
As well, workers who work at heights in construction had until October 1, 2017 to complete the training program under the Working at Heights Standards. A listing of training providers and trainers is on the MOL website, if you’re looking for an approved training program.
We know that under the OHSA, a supervisor must be a competent person. But therein lies a problem; in 2005 during an investigation it was plain that a particular supervisor was not competent. As an inspector, I could not write an order on competency, because perhaps the supervisor was competent when hired. The supervisor in question, when queried, had no idea of the dangers or potential hazards in the workplace and was not familiar with the OHSA. I had to write the order under another section of the OHSA to guarantee that the employer provided training to the supervisor.
To make certain that, as a minimum, supervisors and workers are at least familiar with the OHSA, the MOL developed Health and Safety Awareness Training which came into effect July, 2014. Every worker and supervisor in Ontario must complete this training, either online or in booklet form. Once completed, they never need to take it again. I’m not certain if there is any research into whether it has been effective or not. It’s intent was good though. At least if workers and supervisors actually complete the training they will be aware that the OHSA exists. And that’s a boon for workers from other countries where even discussing health and safety is cause for dismissal.
The CPO training standards for training providers and for trainers will hopefully bring uniformity to the multi-million dollar training industry. Training providers must meet certain criteria and in turn must ensure that the Instructors they hire are qualified to train and are knowledgeable about the subject they are teaching.
I’d say it’s a pretty good start.
Here’s the link if you want to comment or contact Gloria