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What are employer responsibilities to prevent workplace injuries?

Canadian labour laws have primarily been instituted for workplace and employee safety. These laws, be they federal or provincial/territorial, outline the safety precautions that employers are to use in order to be proactive in preventing workplace accidents and illnesses.

Federal employers

The Canadian Labour Code places a duty on Canadian employers to ensure that they not only promote safe and healthy workplaces but also that they be active in preventing workplace accidents and injuries.

However, the code applies to federal workplaces only. Provincial and territorial workplaces have provincial legislation that mandates that employees be kept safe.

Under the code, federal employees must make sure that their employees have the necessary information, training and supervision to perform their work in relative safety.

This includes things like:

  • Knowledge of the safe use of workplace tools and equipment;
  • An appropriate understanding of overall work safety procedures;
  • Awareness of known or foreseeable workplace hazards; and
  • Where possible, training sessions should include documentation.

Provincial employers

All provinces and territories have an occupational health and safety act and workplace safety and health act. For many provinces and territories the act falls under their worker’s compensation board.

The act places duties and responsibilities upon the provincial/territorial employers to make sure that equipment is safe to use and that employee safety is ensured by providing proper training and warnings.

Just like the federal labour code sets out what employees are to do to ensure the safety of their employers, as do the provincial acts.

For example, the Workplace Safety and Health Act of Manitoba places duties upon employers. It divides these duties into two categories; general duties of employers and further duties of employers.

Under general duties of employers, section 4(2) of the act, it requires the employer to:

  • (a) Ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of all his workers; and
  • (b) Comply with this Act and regulations.

Under further duties of employers, section 4(2) some of the duties requirements are:

  • Provide and maintain a workplace, necessary equipment, systems and tools that are safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable;
  • Provide to all his workers such information, instruction, training, supervision and facilities to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of all his workers;
  • Ensure that all his workers, and particularly his supervisors, foremen, chargehands or similar persons, are acquainted with any safety or health hazards which may be encountered by the workers in the course of their service, and that workers are familiar with the use of all devices or equipment provided for their protection.

Many of the provincial acts place similar duties on employers to protect employers. For example, section 3 of the Yukon Occupational Health and Safety Act mirrors the duties that employers have in Manitoba.

These acts place legal obligations upon employers to prevent workplace injury and illness.

Other provincial programs

Often, next to having safety legislation, provincial governments have additional programs to educate or set standards to help keep workers safe and prevent workplace injury or disease.

For example, Alberta has the Work Safe Alberta Program. This is a government-led program that consults with industry and labour to create programs that emphasize workplace safety.

Similarly, Ontario has a government program called Safe At Work Ontario, through which the government enforces the Occupational Health and Safety Act. It aims to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses and one of the ways it does so is by conducting enforcement blitzes, meaning safety audits of workplaces.

Read more:

Workplace Safety Government of Canada

Occupational Health and Safety Act Yukon

Safe At Work Ontario