Human Resources Legislative Update

Ontario Government Announces Consultations Related to Occupational Health and Safety Regulations

Human Resources Legislative Update

Ontario Government Announces Consultations Related to Occupational Health and Safety Regulations

Date: August 14, 2023

Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD) has announced two consultations on proposed changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and Regulations related to two occupational health and safety issues: protecting workers from heat stress and heat-related illnesses and poor outdoor air quality and workplace health and safety. The MLITSD is seeking feedback on proposed amendments and possible additional regulations under the OHSA.

Protecting Workers from Heat Stress and Heat-Related Illnesses

Currently under the OHSA, employers have a general duty to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. This general duty includes protecting workers from hazardous thermal conditions that may lead to heat-related illnesses. Similar to other Canadian jurisdictions, as a general practice the MLITSD assesses a worker’s risk of heat stress based on the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists’ (ACGIH) method. The proposed changes would introduce a stand-alone heat stress regulation with specific requirements applicable to all workplaces in the province subject to the OHSA. The regulation would:

  • introduce heat stress exposure limits based on the ACGIH method
  • require employers to identify and implement measures and procedures to control heat exposures based on the “hierarchy of controls”
  • require that any physiological testing used as part of an alternative method of assessing exposure to heat stress be conducted under the supervision of a person qualified to recognize and assess heat strain and heat-related illness based on their experience, training and knowledge
  • require the use of engineering controls to maintain a worker’s heat exposure within heat stress exposure limits, subject to certain exceptions
  • require employers to provide worker information and instruction on recognizing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and the measures to protect themselves
  • provide for the use of other methods to assess a worker’s risk of exposure to heat stress

Other employer requirements in the proposed regulations include:

  • a duty to take all measures reasonably necessary in the circumstances to protect workers from exposure to conditions that may result in a heat-related illness or a worker’s core body temperature exceeding 38°C
  • a requirement to comply with heat stress exposure limits for light to very heavy work loads in accordance with methods used to determine heat exposures
  • a requirement to develop any additional measures and procedures beyond engineering controls to control heat exposures in writing in conjunction with the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative, including details regarding administrative controls and the use of personal protective equipment
  • a requirement that cool, potable drinking water or another adequate hydrating fluid must be provided close to work areas
  • information and instruction that must be provided to employees on protective measures and procedures, the importance of hydration and rest periods, and early signs and symptoms of heat strain and heat-related illnesses
  • in areas where a heat warning has been issued, heat warning advisories for employees as well as the measures and procedures set out for staying hydrated and taking breaks and all identified rest periods

Poor Outdoor Air Quality and Workplace Health and Safety

The OHSA and its Regulations do not specifically address poor outdoor air quality. Employers have a general duty to take every precaution reasonable to protect employees, including hazards associated with poor air quality. The consultation is seeking feedback on whether poor air quality is an issue for Ontario workplaces, and whether the OHSA and Regulations should be amended.

Feedback is requested on the following questions:

1. Does the nature of your work or workplace require workers to work outdoors during periods of poor outdoor air quality?

2. If yes,

(i) Does this have an impact on your workers’ ability to perform their duties and functions? How?

(ii) What control measures and procedures are you currently implementing to protect your workers?

3. How can the government support your workplace or workers during times of poor outdoor air quality?

Interested stakeholders are invited to provide comments related to Protecting Workers from Heat Stress and Poor Outdoor Air Quality by September 18, 2023.

If you have any questions or require further information about the proposed changes, please reach out to your regular Hicks Morley lawyer.

The article in this client update provides general information and should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. This publication is copyrighted by Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP and may not be photocopied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP. ©