What the Inspector Wants to Know When She Comes A Calling

The first thing I asked upon entry into a workplace, in order to perform an inspection or commence an investigation, was who should I speak to with respect to health and safety. Sometimes it was the owner of a small business,  a supervisor or, in the case of large corporations, a senior line manager.

This question answers an important fact about the administration and viability of the workplace’s health and safety program.  If no-one seemed to know what I was asking, it was usually going to be a long, long day.

But when the workplace parties did know, and after introducing myself I would hand the person a business card.   I would then explain the authority under which I was in the workplace i.e. the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  In the 11 1/2 years that I was an Inspector I showed my badge twice. Both times, because the workplace parties wanted to see it.img_0061-e1497282302182.jpg

The first questions I asked after determining the numbers of workers in the workplace, and the types of work performed were: “Do you have a copy of the Act in the workplace?  Is it posted? ”  Often times I would see a dirty outdated copy hung in a shop covered in dust and grime. If the copy was not the most recent I would issue an order and write in my narrative that the copy was dirty;  it isn’t written in the ACT that the copy had to be clean, but if I wouldn’t touch it, why would any worker who wanted to review it?

Next I would ask: “do you have a health and safety policy? Is the policy in written form?  Is it posted?  Have all workers and supervisors been trained and educated in the policy?” I would then ask to observe the policy.

The lack of a policy is one program element that I issued hundreds of orders for, and not reviewing the policy annually I issued hundreds more.  Many businesses  were not aware that they needed a policy, or if they were, some of them were written years ago, and had not been looked at since.

If you are an employer or worker, be aware that every workplace requires a policy statement.  In the case of a workplace with 5 or fewer than 5 workers, a written policy is not required.

Every written policy must be reviewed at least annually.  And as a former Inspector, I would want to see a date, and a signature to ensure that there was someone who was accountable for the workplace health and safety program.

If you want a generic health and safety policy go here:

 If you don’t have a copy of the Act you can download or print one here.

Workplace Health and Safety – A Retired Inspector’s View

While working as an Industrial Health and Safety Inspector in Ontario, I observed first hand what employers and workers know about workplace safety.   And, for the majority it means — not much.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR or, Why I’m starting this blog

In 1984, I graduated from Humber College’s Safety Engineering Technology Program.   The health and safety act was never mentioned in the years I studied there. After graduation, I took a position in British Columbia working on the University of British Columbia’s Lung Cancer Screening Project for the Mining Industry.  No laws were mentioned there either.

I moved back to Toronto when my contract was up and was hired as the Corporate Safety Coordinator for Northern Telecom Canada (NTC).  During my five years in that position, up until the new corporate executives dragged the company into the mud,  not once did I consider the Occupational Health and Safety Act or Regulations made under the ACT for any of the programs I oversaw.   I didn’t even know that laws existed, let alone that we had to follow them.

Before NTC’s untimely collapse and after their corporate legal counsel took over the reigns of the corporate health, safety and environment department, our health and safety team published HEALTH AND SAFETY IN THE WORKPLACE: – a model program. It was approved by the Ministry of Labour of the time.

IMG_MODEL PROGRAM_edited

The team include a lawyer, myself, the Director of Health and Safety, the Corporate Physician, our Nurse Manager, and an assistant who typed it all out.  In 1988 the book was published by CCH, and if I heard correctly, it became a Canadian Bestseller; 5,000 copies were sold – which says more about the Canadian publishing industry than it does about health and safety.

We worked on that book for over a year.  I sweated over every word I contributed.  At the time I had no idea that my input would be tossed out and that the lawyer would write the book himself; it ended up reading like legislation – dry and boring as hell.  Not once was I asked to review Occupational Health and Safety Law when considering what should go into a model health and safety program.

Then WHMIS came along.   When Northern Telecom joined other corporations in the Canadian Manufacturers Association to write the new Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS),  I begin to realize that there were legal aspects to Health and Safety – or at least I realized that a law was being created that employers would be required to comply with.

Becoming an Inspector meant I finally learned the laws governing health and safety in Ontario.  It also meant I could meet the people responsible for health and safety in their workplaces and assist them to meet their obligations.  I figured that if I’ve saved even one worker’s life, it’s all been worth it.

It is for the reasons listed above that I have decided to write this blog.  To inform and hopefully assist employers understand what they need to do to ensure their workplace is as safe as possible.

Ontario Occupational Health and Safety: How Businesses Can Avoid Orders

In the 11 and 1/2 years that I was an Occupational Health and Safety Inspector with the Ontario Ministry of Labour, many of the owners,  supervisors and workers in the workplaces I visited had no idea of their responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act  ( OHSA.)

My position as an Offences Officer was one of great powers ;  it allowed me to enter into workplaces without a warrant , take up what equipment I wanted, and to speak to whom ever I chose.  I could take photographs,  interview workers, supervisors and directors of the workplaces.  With those powers;  I issued orders wrote requirements, and on occasion prepared briefs to take a company to court.

Very few people have actually read the OHSA, and fewer yet are aware of the regulation made under the OHSA that they must adhere to.

What I liked most about the job was  assisting businesses to meet compliance.  Now that I have retired from the Ministry, I want to continue to assist businesses and individuals understand this important piece of Legislation.  This blog will introduce the OHSA and Regulations to those that own a business or work for a business that needs more information.

June 5, 2017