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What’s this Internal Responsibility System thing I keep hearing about?

Welcome to day 1 of the STACS Inc. review of the Internal Responsibility System!

Brought to you by Nora Rock’s Occupational Health and Safety in Ontario

In order to properly understand the significance of the IRS, it is important to explore the key participants and parties depicted within the OHSA:

  • Employers and constructors;

  • Supervisors (as defined by the OHSA, not as defined by the employer);

  • The Health and Safety Representative or JHSC, and the Worker Trades Committee, if any;

  • Trade unions; and

  • Workers.

However, while the parties above have a significance level of responsibility under Ontario Health and Safety law, “besides the parties at the heart of the IRS, the OHSA also imposes duties, depending on the circumstances, on the following workplace parties:”

First, lets explore the definition of “duty of care” in Ontario law:

“Duty of Care: In negligence law, an obligation on the part of one person to take into account the effect of his or her actions on another person”. Under the OHSA, there are parties outside those listed above, which possess a “duty of care” to their employees.

Duties of Other Workplace Parties:

1. Corporate Officers and Directors:

“Corporate officers and directors, as representatives of the employer, have a personal duty of care (reinforced by section 32 of the OHSA) to ensure that the corporation takes all reasonable steps to comply with the safety legislation, regulations, and policies to which the company is subject. Historically, (especially before the passage of Bill C-45, mentioned in the previous chapter, which made it easier to find corporations guilty of offences), imposing criminal sanctions on an employer for safety failures required identifying specific corporate officers and directors who were responsible for accidents. Directors and officers who ignore compliance requirements remain vulnerable to bot criminal sanctions and fines under the OHSA.”

2. Owners:

The OHSA defines an owner as: “a trustee, receiver, mortgagee in possession, tenant, lessee, or occupier of any lands or premises used or to be used as a workplace, and a person who acts for or on behalf of an owner as an agent or delegate.”

“Besides having a general duty to ensure that a workplace complies with the OHSA, owners are responsible for ensuring that ‘prescribed facilities’ are available and maintained. ‘Facilities’ is a broad term, but could include, for example, a ‘quick-acting deluge shower’ designed to wash hazardous materials off workers in an area where exposure is likely. ‘Prescribed’ means required by law; for example, having a deluge shower in an area where skin contact hazards are used ins prescribed by section 125 of the Industrial Establishments regulation made under the OHSA. Owners may also, in some cases, need to seek MOL approval to make structural changes to a workplace, and may need to submit the relevant plans to the MOL for review.”

3. Suppliers:

“The OHSA imposes duties on ‘suppliers,’ but makes it clear that a supplier is only someone who meets the narrow definition of supplying machines, tools, or equipment under a rental or lease (not a sale) arrangement (section 31 (1)). This kind of supplier has a duty to ensure that the thing supplied is in good condition, complies with the OHSA, and is well-maintained.”

4. Licences:

“A licensee is also narrowly defined for the purpose of the OHSA. Under this statute, it means a party who holds a licence to cut Crown timber. These people or corporations are required to protect the health and safety of the workers who cut timber under the licence and to comply with the OHSA- specifically, with the logging-related rules made under it.”

5. Architects and Engineers:

“An architect or engineer (defined as such by the legislation that governs his or her profession) can be liable, under the OHSA, for harm comes to a worker (not necessarily an employee of the architect or engineer) because of incompetent advice given by the architect or engineer for the purpose of a certification required by the OHSA. For example, section 40 of the Industrial Establishments regulation requires that electrical equipment be certified by the Canadian Standards Association or the Electrical Safety Authority.”

Day 2: Specific Responsibilities of Employers under the IRS!

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