Starting July 1, 2014, all employers covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) will be required to give Basic Awareness Training to all workers and supervisors. The objective of this training is to enhance workers’ and supervisors’ knowledge of both their rights and responsibilities under the OHSA and highlight the OHSA’s overarching principle that workers, supervisors and employers are jointly responsible for maintaining the health and safety of their workplace.

The training was mandated, in part, in order to address the health and safety of particularly vulnerable workers such as new hires and recent immigrants.

Employers may use ministry-approved training programs, external programs or develop their own to comply with this new requirement. This training must be completed during work time for existing workers and supervisors, however, prospective employees may complete the training on their own and employers may require completion of such a program in advance of hiring.

The Basic Awareness Training for workers must cover:

  • The duties and rights of workers under the OHSA
  • The duties of employers and supervisors under the OHSA
  • The roles of health and safety representatives and Joint Health and Safety Committees under the OHSA
  • The roles of the Ministry of Labour, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and entities under OHSA Section 22.5
  • Common workplace hazards
  • Requirements regarding information and instruction on controlled products
  • Occupational illness, including latency periods

The Basic Awareness Training for supervisors must include training on how to recognize, assess and control workplace hazards and how to evaluate those controls as well as how and where to access information on occupation health and safety. If a supervisor has completed a similar training program before July 1, 2014 they will not have to complete the training program for workers. Otherwise, they must complete both the Basic Awareness Training program for workers and for supervisors.

This training should be a supplement to any other specific training required under the OHSA. It should be completed as soon as reasonably possible, but it is recommended that it occur before workers are exposed to workplace hazards.

Workers who have already completed training that covers the required content must show proof of completion to their employer and the employer must verify that the previous training covered the required content. This means that employers are also required to keep records of workers and supervisors who have completed the training. These records must be kept for a period of six months after a worker’s employment is terminated and the employer must respond to any request from former employees for proof of training within that time period. The training does not have to be regularly retaken – an employee must simply show proof of completion on one occasion.

Employers in Ontario will need to make this a priority and should take the opportunity to refresh employee awareness of best practice in health and safety in the workplace and workplace policies and procedures in these areas.  It may also be a good time to review these policies to ensure their compliance with legislated and best practice standards.

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