workplace hazards

Tell employees about workplace hazards

Did you warn your employees that the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 was a workplace hazard?

Workplace hazards are anything that may cause harm or adverse health effects to a person or property.  If your work setting is outdoors or has windows, then you probably should have warned your workers not to look directly at the sun on the day of the eclipse.  

Take a few moments to consider this long list of items that can put employees at risk while at work.  Workplace hazards include chemicals, lifting, pushing, pulling, lighting, sitting, standing, slips, trips, falls, shift work, musculoskeletal disorders due to poor body position or movements, biological items (insects, animals, plants), pandemics like the flu, temperature, air quality, noise, radiation, stress, violence, bullying, driving, electricity, forklifts and other large machinery, ladders, material handling, raised platforms, tools, confined spaces, indoor air quality, lasers, scents, temperature, ventilation, weather, and working alone. 

There are many, many dangerous items in workplaces.  Employers must control workplace risks and do all that they can to teach employees to work safely with these hazards.

To learn more about the hazards listed above, go to CCOHS hazards web page.

protective equipment cost

Who Should Pay for Personal Protective Equipment?

Is the employer or the worker responsible for paying for Personal Protective Equipment?

Unfortunately the OHS law in Ontario is not clear on who should pay for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 

OHS law requires the employer to ensure workers wear and use PPE. In some circumstances, the law and OHS regulations requires the employer to provide PPE. The OHS law does not make reference to the responsibility for payment.

For an employer who wants control over the safety standard of equipment being used in their workplace, it makes sense to cover the cost of most PPE. 

In some industries such as construction and trades, workers tend to supply their own tools, equipment and PPE. In a small company, workers may be required to purchase their own protective equipment, either directly from the employer or from a list of suppliers. Large companies and unionized workplaces often specify which PPE will be supplied by the employer and which PPE must be supplied by the worker. For expensive and specialized protective equipment the employer typically covers the cost.

Protective Equipment Cost Practices

  • Workers are usually responsible for the cost of safety footwear and clothing. 
  • Employers typically cover the cost of other PPE required in their workplace. 


Health & Safety Change Management Butterfly

Health & Safety Change Management Strategies

Managers should use health & safety change management strategies and tools to implement new safety practices in organizations.

Improving safety programs involves changing how things are done in the workplace. Health & Safety change management is required during safety program improvements. A great new workplace safety idea can fail because of poor leadership during implementation of the new process. Executives and managers must identify and manage how the changes caused by a new safety ideas affect their organization’s stakeholders and business systems.

A well-designed implementation plan for a new safety procedure includes identifying, in advance, how it will affect the business’ processes and people. Risk and hazard analysis is helpful. Then, a plan can be developed to prevent potential problems. Tools, like the University of Windsor’s Management of Change Form , are useful to help identify issues that may undermine the implementation of a new procedure.

Since safety improvements involve asking individual to do their jobs differently, employees are greatly affected by these types of changes. Others who interact with the organization, such as customers, suppliers and the public, may also require assistance coping with new business procedures. If people do not understand why change is required, this can cause problems incorporating the new idea into practice in a workplace. Even if  supported by everyone, it can still can  be difficult for people to adopt new ideas.

Health & Safety change management involves planning for changes and then supporting individuals as they learn, problem-solve, adjust and accept new realities. Change can cause employees distress related to learning new tasks and adjusting to alterations to jobs and personal routines. Employees who are support by managers find it easier to adopt new procedures. Unsupported workers can become stressed or confused and negative outcomes, such as poor employee morale or safety incidents, can occur.

Identifying risks and planning health & safety change management strategies does not  guarantee smooth transitions to new business procedures.  Not all problems can be prevented. During times of change, managers must show strong leadership and guide their teams through the changes required to achieve safety program improvements.

How to manage workplace harassment.

How to Manage Workplace Harassment

Being harassed at work is unacceptable and employers are legally required to protect their employees and manage workplace harassment.

Demeaning jokes or suggestions, bullying, sexual innuendo or intimidating actions, whether spoken, gestured, printed or digitally circulated are all unacceptable behaviours in workplaces. In Canada, laws require employers to manage workplace harassment.

What is workplace harassment? Workplace harassment is unwelcome words or action towards an employee that are offensive, embarrassing, humiliating or demeaning. Harassment may intimidate, isolate or discriminate against the individual. Harassment is different from behaviour that is reasonably expected in a workplace as a part of operating a business.

How can workplace harassment be prevented? Workplace harassment causes employee stress and interferes with worker productivity. A simple prevention strategy is to develop a workplace harassment policy and prevention program and to enforce it. Training about the policy shows that the employer truly believes in protecting its workers and treating them respectfully.  

Who gets harassed at work? Anyone can be harassed in a workplace. Employees, managers, visitors, customers and even owners may be victimized by workplace harassment.

Who are the harassers? Bosses, co-workers, clients, suppliers and even family or friends may be sources of harassment. If someone targets an individual in a workplace with unwelcome words or actions, whether intentional or unintentional, then they are a harasser.

What should an employee do if they are being harassed? If an employee is harassed or observes another person being harassed at work, they should report this to a senior manager immediately. Employees need to know that harassment reports will be taken seriously.

How should employers manage workplace harassment? Supervisors must take immediate steps to stop and manage workplace harassment incidents. When harassment is reported, interventions should include supporting the victim, confronting the harasser and preventing further harassment. Managers must be tactful and maintain confidentiality. The incident investigation and discipline details should be documented for future reference.

A zero-tolerance policy that is actively supported by senior management and supervisors will help develop harassment free workplaces. Employers striving to prevent and manage workplace harassment will empower employees to report harassment and supervisors to enforce company policy and stopping this type of behaviour in the workplace.

Read more about Ontario’s Workplace Harassment Legislation.

bring your pet to work

Bring your Pet to Work – Boost Employee Happiness

An inexpensive company perk that can have a big impact on worker happiness is allowing pets in the workplace.

More companies are welcoming pets in the workplace. The most common pets at work are dogs or cats. Sharing your workplace with a pet has been shown to have a positive impact on happiness, decrease stress, boost morale and even increase motivation and productivity. 

However, implementing a pet friendly workplace does have obstacles. The “bring your pet to work”idea may sound great to some but dreadful to others. First it is important to make sure everyone agrees with the idea. It is especially important to talk to employees who don’t have pets and hear their opinions. If everyone agrees to give pets at work a try, then you need to set some ground rules. 

  • Will pets be on a leash, except when in an office with the door closed?
  • Is there a place to walk dogs close to your workplace? 
  • How will you manage meal and potty breaks? 
  • What happens if a pet is aggressive, loud, damaging furniture or otherwise becomes an unwelcome guest? 
  • Start slow by allowing pets 1 – 2 days per week 
  • Consider how many pets will be coming to the office and ask staff to alternate week to week to keep the numbers reasonable
  • Designate certain areas as pet free – board room, lunch room, … 
  • Set up a bed for your pet so they have a safe place to rest
  • Establish a trial period and review success of the “bring your pet to work” program

Read about 8 companies that make a dog friendly environment work

Read health & safety good news

Ontario Health & Safety Good News 

Health & safety good news was reported in the recent Occupational Health and Safety in Ontario: 2015-16 Annual Report. 

Fewer injury claims, critical injuries and fatalities were reported in Ontario workplaces in 2015-16. This definitely is health & safety good news! With recent  news stories involving serious employer penalties and worker injuries, it is nice to hear that overall workplace health & safety trends in Ontario are moving in a positive direction. 

The report summarizes Ontario’s OHS strategy. It is a multi-sectorial approach involving the general public and employers, educators, researchers and safety specialists in both private and public sectors. Areas of focus include increasing public knowledge and changing attitudes and behaviour about safety at work. Workplace practices that put employees at risk are being challenged. Workers are understanding that they have the right to be safe while working and employers are doing more to keep employees out of harms way. 

Ontario’s OHS initiatives include new legislation, worker training requirements, enforcement activities and mass media workplace safety marketing . The end result is the health & safety good news of fewer workers getting hurt. Continued improvement will requires creativity, effort and commitment to change from all workplace parties.

These changes may not feel like health & safety good news for business owners and employers. Implementing health and safety and staying compliant with requirements is hard work for employers.  The best approach is to be positive, creative and to spend time learning about why improving workplace safety benefits businesses and their workers. 

Read more about the Occupational Health and Safety in Ontario: 2015-16 Annual Report.