Ontario Is Taking Construction Safety Very Seriously

December 22, 2017

The Ontario Ministry of Labor announced last week that businesses and individuals who violate workplace health and safety standards can expect fines that have increased up to 300 percent.

Since 1990, corporations found guilty of violating Canada's Occupational Health and Safety Act could only be fined a maximum of $500,000. As of December 14, 2017, those corporations will face fines of up to $1.5 million - a sizeable increase and the first the government has put in place in 27 years.

Safety violators who own individual or unincorporated business will find their financial penalty has increased 300 percent, from $25,000 set in 1979 to $100,000 effective last week.

Ontario has also revised the prosecution time for a safety violation. previously, the parties involved had from one year of the date of the safety violation to work their case through the courts.

Starting December 14, the clock starts ticking on the date the safety inspector becomes aware of an alleged violation, allowing one year from the inspector's notice to complete court hearings.

In 2016-17, ministry inspectors conducted more than 70,000 visits to workplaces and issued more than 118,000 orders because of noncompliance with Ontario’s workplace safety statute.

In 2016, courts imposed more than $11 million in fines and entered more than 2,200 convictions against workplace parties for violations of the safety statute and regulations, according to the Ontario Ministry of Labor.

“While fines imposed by the courts for corporate offenders have generally fallen short of the maximum amount, one might speculate that, with these dramatic changes, courts will soon be assessing much higher fines for more serious or repeat violations,” said Michael Comartin, a Toronto-based associate for law firm Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart.

Employers will now be required to notify the ministry if a health and safety representative or committee “has identified potential structural inadequacies of a workplace as a source of danger or hazard to workers” and will have expanded accident and incident reporting obligations.

As in the U.S., fall hazards make up a majority of construction safety violations.