Workers Health & Safety Centre

Bill 177 brings increased OHS fines and other changes to Ontario workplaces

Bill 177 brings increased OHS fines and other changes to Ontario workplaces
Recent changes to Ontario health and safety law raise maximum fines against convicted individuals and corporations, thus bringing penalties more in line with other provinces.

Amendments to Ontario’s Occupational Health & Safety Act (the Act) increase fines for persons convicted under the Act from $25,000 to $100,000 and/or face up to 12 month’s imprisonment. These were the first increases to individual fines since the Act was introduced in 1979. For corporations convicted under the Act, maximum fines triple from  $500,000 to $1.5 million. These were last increased in 1990.

Nine other provinces set higher fines for individuals convicted under their OHS laws. Individuals convicted in Alberta can be charged up to $500,000 on a first offence and $1 million on a subsequent one. In the federal jurisdiction, maximum fines for individuals and corporations are $1 million. In Saskatchewan, corporations whose convictions result in serious injury or death can be fined $1.5 million. For more serious offences, individuals in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and in the federal sector can be imprisoned for up to two years. Failing to comply with a stop work order in the Yukon can result in a 36-month jail term.  

The Ontario changes come with passage of Bill 177, Stronger, Fairer Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2017, which amends more than 100 laws, including the Occupational Health & Safety Act. The Bill received Royal Assent on December 14th also the date these changes came into force.  

Additional Bill 177 amendments to the Act also include:
  • Requiring employers who lease workspace to notify the Ministry of Labour if a joint health and safety committee or a health and safety representative has identified potential structural inadequacies. (This comes from the findings of public inquiry into the Elliot Lake Algo Centre Mall collapse in 2012 in which two died, including one worker)
  • Expanding notification requirements for reporting accidents or other incidents under section 53 of the Act beyond construction sites, mines and mining plants as to be prescribed by regulation.
  • Improving the statute of limitation for bringing a prosecution under the Act or regulations from one year after the incident occurred or when an inspector became aware of the alleged offence, whichever is later.

This last legal improvement comes too late for the family of 33 year-old Scott Johnson. The British drum technician was killed in June 2012 at Downsview Park in Toronto when a large stage structure crashed and killed him as he set up for a concert by British band Radiohead. Three other workers were also seriously injured.

The Ministry of Labour laid a total of 13 charges against the entertainment company, an engineer and the staging contractor. However, last September an Ontario judge ruled the case had taken too long to come to trial and stayed all charges. Johnson’s family, Radiohead and the Ontario Federation of Labour were swift to criticize a justice system that appeared to fail Scott Johnson. 

Late last November, Ontario’s Chief Coroner called an inquest into Johnson’s death. Inquests are mandatory on construction projects. No date has been set for the inquest.

Other related articles:

Death of drum technician in Radiohead stage collapse subject of Ontario coroner's inquest

Special Report: Elliot Lake Inquiry issues recommendations to help safeguard workers

Inspecting workplaces and issuing penalties leads to lower injuries
Need help understanding and complying with legal health and safety rights and responsibilities, including extensive employer training obligations?  Workers Health & Safety Centre offers a wide range of information resources and training programs to help workplaces meet and exceed all legal training requirements.  

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