top of page

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

Welcome to day 3 of the STACS Inc. review of the Internal Responsibility System! - Supervisors

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

The Internal Responsibility System reflects one of the key principles of Ontario Health and Safety Law; those affected by health and safety play an integral role in ensuring there are adequate procedures in place to protect all workplace parties.

As such, Ontario law and the OHSA specifically, assigns specific duties to supervisors since their role in any workplace is highly influential!

What is important to note, however, is that the duties assigned within the OHSA apply to Supervisors as defined by the Act itself which may not necessarily correspond with the employer’s own definition of a supervisor! It is important to understand the definition of Supervisor to determine who fits into this category and as a result, the duties they are legally responsible to know, understand and maintain adherence to!


“The OHSA defines a supervisor as “a person who has charge of a workplace or authority over a worker. This definition has been interpreted by the case law to include not only those people who have the title ‘manager’ or ‘supervisor’, but also individuals who instruct and oversee workers in the use of equipment or materials and who have the authority to enforce employee compliance with their use of these things.”

“Workers who may fall into this category include, for example, forepeople, team leaders, or lead hands.”

While employers have a general duty to hire only “competent supervisors”, supervisors also have a general duty to:

  • “ensure that workers work in a safe manner, taking every precaution reasonable under the circumstances for the protection of the workers;

  • ensure that workers use or wear safety devices, equipment, and clothing properly, and adhere to the measures and procedures prescribed by the law or by policies of the employer;

  • where prescribed (by law or a regulation), provide written instructions to workers about safety measures and procedures; and

  • advise workers of potential or actual hazards in the workplace of which the supervisor is aware.

In order to carry out his duties under the OHSA, a supervisor must be reasonable knowledgeable about the following:

  • what the known hazards in the workplace are;

  • whether there are any unusual hazards at a given time (a supervisor is expected to monitor changes in the work area to determine this);

  • which kinds of safety devices and equipment are required by the employer;

  • the proper use of safety devices and equipment;

  • the safety procedures that apply to the workplace; and

  • the level of knowledge about safety procedures and equipment that each worker has (this is especially relevant, for example, when working with temporary workers or new hires).”

For assistance in ensuring you have met your prescribed duties and responsibilities under Ontario Health and Safety legislation, contact Ami at STACS Inc. for training and consulting services; making business sense of health and safety. Ami Johnson STACS Inc. 905-556-0333

bottom of page