The new strategy is closely tied to the recent introduction of mandatory health and safety awareness training for Ontario workers and supervisors, which will be enforced by the ministry July 1, 2014.
To develop the new strategy, the Ontario government met with more than 1,150 consultation participants and received 217 responses to a consultation paper released on March 18, 2013.
“The purpose of the strategy was to come up with a set of priorities that would guide all these partners in delivering consistent and high-quality health and safety training in the province,” George Gritziotis, Ontario's chief prevention officer, told Northern Life.
Gritziotis' position was created following an expert advisory report that responded to the deaths of four construction workers in Toronto, who were killed when their scaffolding collapsed on Dec. 24, 2009.
One of his responsibilities, when his position was created in 2011, was to establish a provincial occupational health and safety strategy.
Gritziotis was also given the authority to set standards for health and safety training.
The new strategy, Gritziotis said, will assist vulnerable workers and offer more support for small businesses to provide health and safety training to their employees.
“For me, anybody who doesn't understand what their rights are in the workplace, and they don't understand they can refuse to do unsafe work, is vulnerable,” Gritziotis said. “A worker who is safe and secure will be a lot more loyal, committed and productive.”
Workplace Safety North, independent not-for-profit health and safety organization, consulted on behalf of a number of Northern Ontario industries during the health and safety strategy consultations.
Workplace Safety North is the occupational health and safety association for Ontario's forestry, mining, and paper, printing, and converting sectors.
“The framework and strategy speaks to those areas we need to target in terms of greatest need,” said Paul André, Workplace Safety North's vice-president of prevention services.
André said the strategy's priority to address high hazard work is especially relevant to the mining sector.
In early December the Ontario government announced it would launch a mine safety review after a strong outcry from the United Steelworkers and the Mining Inquiry Needs Everyone's Support (MINES) Committee.
According to the Ministry of Labour, there have been 18 mining-related fatalities in Ontario since 2007.
Another important priority for Northern Ontario, André said, was the strategy's priority to help small businesses offer their workers free health and safety training through online programs and free documentation.
He said the forestry industry, in particular, has a large number of smaller companies that will benefit from the new health and safety resources.