Who is Responsible for Workplace Health and Safety?

Laws and Regulations

Health and Safety in the workplace is a tightly regulated area in Ontario and one that must always be treated very seriously by all employers. Make no mistake, The Ministry of Labour, Skills and Training Development, the Government body in Ontario for ensuring compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (‘’the Act’’), are given extraordinary powers (at times, stronger than Police powers) to enforce the rules, direction and standards laid down by the Act and its associated Regulations. Where a critical injury or fatality occurs in the workplace, the consequences arising from such serious circumstances can be extremely damaging.

Who is Responsible for Workplace Health & Safety?

Given that the repercussions of a failure to comply with health and safety law can be so grave (both to an injured worker, their families, and to the business as a whole), it is important to understand – who is responsible for workplace health and safety?

The Act has a critical, underlying framework that answers this question, and it forms the foundation for health and safety law in Ontario – it’s known as the Internal Responsibility System (or IRS) and, in short, the Act was designed from the very beginning to make each workplace party (the Employer, the Supervisors, and the Workers) collectively responsible for the overall health and safety of the workplace. Everyone has an important role to play.

For full details of the Employer, Supervisor and Worker responsibilities under the Act, refer to sections 25 – 28 of the Act.

Joint Health and Safety Committees

It’s worth noting as a final point that businesses that regularly employ 6 or more employees are required to appoint a health and safety representative (section 8), where those that regularly employ 20 or more employees are required to establish a Joint Health and Safety Committee (section 16 (2)). Health and Safety Representatives and Joint Health and Safety Committees are intended by the Act to act as advisors to the Employer for matters relating to workplace health and safety. Although they aren’t held ultimately responsible for health and safety violations, they play a key role in using the powers given to them by the Act to assist in creating a safe and healthy workplace.

HRPAR understands the legal and financial consequences that a failure to comply with the Act may bring. We have a wealth of experience in navigating organizations through health and safety issues and strongly encourage any organization looking for more information on how they need to comply with the Act to contact a member of the HRPAR team as soon as possible for some clear and objective advice.