Safe Workplaces: The Right to a Safe and Healthy Workplace Regulations respecting workers' right to a safe and healthy workplace address only certain workplace hazards. Not all workplace hazards are regulated, and in the various jurisdictions, hazards are regulated differently. Here is a sample of common workplace hazards and the regulations meant to limit or eliminate those hazards. Compare the regulations in Ontario with regulations in the other provinces and territories.
Ergonomic hazards in the office can cause musculo skeletal injury (MSI) or repetitive strain injury (RSI). The injury "carpel tunnel syndrome" is an example. Regulations followed by the employer are meant to protect office workers from MSI. What is the regulation on MSI respecting workers' right to a safe and healthy workplace? Only Saskatchewan and British Columbia have regulations on the prevention of MSI in the workplace. The federal workplace jurisdiction and Manitoba will be passing ergonomics regulations soon.
Two main health effects of working with noise are hearing loss and stress. Workplace noise can be caused by traffic, pneumatic tools, power tools, machinery, ventilation systems, humans and animals, for example. Regulations followed by the employer are meant to protect workers from too much noise. What is the regulation on noise respecting workers' right to a safe and healthy workplace? Noise exposure limits in Ontario workplaces are found in Regulation 851 Industrial Establishments under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. An employer must ensure that a worker is not working with noise levels above the limit set in the regulation. The limit is 90 decibels for an 8 hour day.
Warning signs have to mark areas where the noise level is above 90 decibels. If the worker works with noise for more than 8 hours in a 24 hour period, or less than 8 hours in a 24 hour period, then the employer must control the noise level according to the precise noise levels and work hours set in the regulation. Or the employer has the worker wear hearing protection.
Regulations followed by the employer are meant to protect workers from hazardous materials, like workplace chemicals. What is the regulation on hazardous materials respecting workers' right to a safe and healthy workplace? Regulations in every province, territory, and in the federal workplace jurisdiction state that employers have to educate and train workers on certain hazardous workplace materials. These materials are "classified", or named, in the Workplace Hazardous Material Information System (WHMIS). Click here for more information on WHMIS.
Some workplace materials that might be hazardous are not classified under WHIMS. These materials include cosmetics, pesticides, and objects made of wood. Hazardous materials classified under WHMIS include compressed gas, flammable and combustible materials, oxidizing materials, poisonous and infectious materials, corrosive materials and dangerously reactive materials. Each comes with a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and a WHMIS warning label.
The MSDS and the WHMIS warning label explain the dangers of the material and how to work safely with it. In order to better protect the worker, the employer trains the worker in reading the WHMIS label and data sheet, on safely using the hazardous material, and on responding to a spill, release, fire or poisoning.
Working alone is not always hazardous, but it can be hazardous, especially when there is an injury or other emergency. Working alone is also hazardous when work is done with the public and there's a possibility of violence. Regulations followed by the employer are meant to protect workers from the hazards of working alone and from workplace violence. What is the regulation on working alone and workplace violence respecting workers' right to a safe and healthy workplace? In Ontario, there is no health and safety regulation on working alone. A regulation on working in confined spaces is being drafted and may become regulation in the future.
At present, an employer can choose any of the following toward lowering the hazards of working alone:
- communicating with workers as to specific work hazards and implementing preventative measures
- scheduling more hazardous work to be done during normal hours when other workers can help in case of emergency
- avoiding having workers work alone
- training workers in such things as work hazards and steps to take in case of emergency
- putting in place a "check in procedure" which lets workers working alone keep regular contact with co workers
While BC and Saskatchewan have specific regulations on protecting workers from violence in the workplace, Ontario has no such regulation.