What is a Small Business?
Small businesses are defined as employers who employ less than 50 workers. Small businesses represent over 80% of business owners in the province of Ontario. Small businesses are unique in that they are more limited in terms of time and resources than larger employers. Due to this, they may need assistance in meeting basic legal requirements for occupational health and safety. In fact, many small business owners may not be aware that they have legal obligations.
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How does the OHSA affect your Small Business?
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) does not differentiate between small businesses and larger ones. The law requires workplaces with 20 or more regularly employed workers to have a Joint Health & Safety Committee (JHSC) and at least one worker member and one management worker of the JHSC must be certified. Certification involves training in health and safety law as well as the identification, assessment and control of workplace hazards. Workplaces with more than five workers must have a designated health and safety representative.
Some small business owners incorrectly believe health and safety legislation does not apply to them; for example, owners that opt out of WSIB coverage make an assumption that they can also opt out of the OHSA. However, these are two separate pieces of legislation.
Other owners may have read in the Act that a workplace with five or fewer regular employees does not need to prepare a written health and safety policy. However, the Act indicates that if there’s a critical injury or fatality, or even a visit from a Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD) inspector, the business owner would still be required to demonstrate and document that people are working safely, and that a disciplinary process is ready to implement. See S.6 of the Act: “Duties of Employers and Other Persons.”
What You Can Do
As a small business, you need to keep your health and safety processes simple and informal through management walkabouts, quick staff meetings, a handwritten memo to file, notes in a log book—all viable strategies if inspectors ask if you’ve been meeting your legal obligations. You can implement other effective, yet uncomplicated ways to communicate with staff and keep your business safe and healthy:
- Conduct regular “quick talks” on health and safety with staff, using your safe operating procedures, checklists or MSDS sheets as topic guides
- Make health and safety part of your everyday operations
- Perform regular “safety observation checks” by watching an employee work for two minutes, reinforcing what was done well, and coaching on improvements
- Ask staff, who often see what managers don’t, to identify hazards
- Ask a staff member to volunteer as a health and safety champion
Health and Safety Representative
A Health and Safety Representative (HSR) is required in most Ontario workplaces that regularly employ 6 to 19 workers. The role of the HSR is to support health and safety in the workplace. PSHSA developed a one-day, basic training eLearning program that helps HSRs perform their legislative functions.
Ontario’s Small Business Health and Safety Training Program will reimburse eligible small business employers for the health and safety representative training of an appointed HSR in an Ontario workplace. It will cover the cost for the $25 registration fee for the HSR eLearning training course and $150 toward the cost of the representative’s training time, for training completed between July 15, 2021 to March 31, 2024.
To be eligible for the Small Business Health and Safety Training Program reimbursement, small businesses must:
- regularly employ 6 to 19 workers in an Ontario workplace or be required to have a health and safety representative in other circumstances
- have a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) number
- keep a copy of the HSR training certificate of completion
Message on training and financial support for small businesses from Ontario's Chief Prevention Officer Fall 2022
Small Business Health and Safety Representative Training
small business resource manual
Small Business Resource Manual
If you are an organization with fewer than 20 employees, whether you have WSIB coverage or private insurance, the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations apply to you. PSHSA offers training and resources, including the Small Business Resource Manual, to help you understand and satisfy your legislated responsibilities, while creating a safe environment for your employees.
This booklet is designed to make health and safety as easy as possible. PSHSA offers you a simple step-by-step process, including an easy to follow action checklist to help you to set up and maintain a basic health and safety program.
- Assessing Violence in the Community: A Handbook for the Workplace
- Community Care: A Tool to Reduce Workplace Hazards
- Employee Incident Report
- Organizational Analysis of Incidents
- Resources to Support Healthcare Sector Plan & Initiatives
- Small Business: Your Responsibilities for Health & Safety Webinar
- Small Business Guide to Health and Safety Municipal Resource Manual
- Small Business Toolkit – Start your Health and Safety Program in 3 steps
- Workplace Inspection Report
- Workplace Violence Risk Assessment Tools
PSHSA Fast Facts
- Board of Directors: Know Your Liabilities
- Building a Successful Client Handling Program
- Caught in the Middle: Supervisor and Occupational Health and Safety
- Empowerment and Self Protection: Occupational Health and Safety for Workers
- First Aid
- Hand Hygiene: Spread Protection, Not Infection
- How to Investigate an Incident
- Introduction to the JHSC
- Musculoskeletal Disorders
- Occupational Health and Safety is Everyone’s Business
- Occupational Illness: Reporting Requirements to Report to the MLITSD
- Occupational Illness: Infectious Disease Reporting form
- The Leadership Factor: Occupational Health and Safety Begins with Us
- Workplace Violence: Complying with the OHSA
- First Aid Policy
- Health and Safety Policy Statement
- Health and Safety Training Policy and Procedures
- Critical Injury Procedure
- Right to Refuse Flowchart
- Right to Refuse Unsafe Work Policy
- Terms of Reference for Health and Safety Representatives
- Workplace Inspection Checklist
- Workplace Inspection Policy
- Workplace Violence and Harassment Policy
The majority of small businesses in Ontario are focused on workforce development and technologies. Small businesses with 50 employees or less (fewer than 17%) receive government support for employee training, compared to 25% of large firms. Overall Ontario small business owners feel “underserved” and it is difficult for them to make significant commitments to investments. PSHSA has developed free resources that help workers learn now to balance Work, Personal and Family life. These can act as support for Ontario small businesses and their employees to ensure optimal health and safety at work.
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Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development Resources
- Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development Website
- Developing Workplace Violence and Harassment Policies and Programs: What Employers Need to Know
- Electronic Regulations and Legislation
- Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act
- Guide for Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSC) and Representatives in the Workplace
- Inspection Blitz Schedule
- OHS Compliance Checklist
- Workplace Violence and Harassment: Understanding the Law
- Worker Health and Safety in 4 Steps
- Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support Medical Training: Hey Mom and Dad, Do You Know Basic Life Support?
- eForm 7 – Employers’ Report of Injury/Illness
- Your health and safety rights and responsibilities
- Injury or illness reporting self-evaluator for employers
- Work-Related Concussions Educational Video
- Work-Related Concussions Educational App
- Heads-Up: What You Need to Know About Concussions in the Workplace