Ontario Rolls Out Financial Incentives for Safety Management Systems

The Government of Ontario is proving the old adage that “safety pays off” in a big new way. It is earmarking $140 million (CAD) for employers who successfully implement occupational health and safety management systems (OHSMSs) in their workplaces.

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) will provide these new financial incentives in the form of rebates over the next three years. The incentive program is open to all employers within Ontario, regardless of size or industry sector, and is intended to encourage businesses to create and maintain effective safety management systems.

Ontario’s new program is led by the Office of the Chief Prevention Officer (CPO) and is part of Supporting Ontario’s Safe Employers, a voluntary program designed to recognize employers who take proactive measures to lower their accident and injury rates, and seek continuous improvement in safety management.

“This is a big step for Ontario’s health and safety community as we continue to move forward in protecting workers,” said CPO Ron Kelusky in a press statement. “We’re adopting innovative approaches to become a modern regulator, industry has long asked for rewards for employers who successfully promote health and safety in their workplace.”

How Do I Earn Those Incentives?

To help provide employers with a framework for developing or improving their safety management systems, the government of Ontario has created a new accreditation standard. The standard lays out the expectations for an OHSMS. In general, there are three elements an employer’s OHSMS must have:

  • Leadership, commitment and participation: Section 5.1 of the standard states that senior management has overall responsibility for the management system, including making the necessary resources available, and defining the roles and responsibilities for management of the system. This section also stresses the importance of worker participation, and should not only encourage participation but also remove any barriers that prevent engagement.
  • Planning and implementation: Section 5.2 tasks senior management with establishing and maintaining a safety and health policy. The policy should be appropriate to the scale and nature of the business’s operations, which means in turn that the organization needs to define the scope of its operations as they relate to the safety management system. The organization must also develop systems for identification of hazards, risk assessment and determination of controls, setting objectives, determining legal requirements, and assuring competency and safety awareness within the workforce. Additionally, they must have a Management of Change (MOC) procedure to identify and control risks of planned changes to operations or facilities.
  • Evaluation: It’s one thing to have policies and procedures in place, but quite another to have effective policies and procedures. That’s why Section 5.3 emphasizes the need for evaluation so that an organization can monitor the extent to which its policy and objectives are being met. Specifically, an organization needs a process for performing incident investigation and analysis, tracking of preventative and corrective actions, conducting internal audits to ensure you’re really doing what your policies and procedures say you’re doing, and performing a management review to assess the effectiveness of your overall system.

Some of the above may seem familiar to those of you acquainted with other occupational safety management standards, including the emphasis on employee engagement highlighted in recent standards such as ISO 45001. This is a prime example of how recognized best practices have been converging thanks to the global sharing of information by safety professionals. In fact, the CPO allows employers to use other standards accredited by the province to implement a qualifying safety management system, including:

If you’re an employer in Ontario and are interested in pursuing these new incentives, there are a few things you can do today to get started. First, of course, you need to choose which standard to use as the basis for your system, secure support and leadership from management, and define the roles and responsibilities of those who will have significant parts to play in safety management.

At least as importantly, you’ll need to implement methods for managing all of the functions necessary to run an effective system. That means you need fast, simple ways of documenting when safety incidents have occurred, as well as tracking actions. You’ll also need to assess the risks in your operation and determine what controls need to be in place, and measure whether those controls are working as planned.

Another important tool for this purpose is the internal audit. You’ll want to have some of your people prepared to visit different work areas and operations covered under the scope of your system, and assess whether established policies and procedures are being followed. You’ll have a better chance of achieving this if you can document that your workers and internal auditors have received training appropriate to their roles in your management system.

Additionally, you’ll need to ensure that no major changes to your facility or operations are initiated without first receiving proper risk analysis so that you can have the right controls installed. This can be a very time and labor-intensive process when conducted with outdated methods such as spreadsheets, paper, or legacy software products.

Luckily, there are modern EHS software tools available that can help you with all facets of safety management.

No matter where you live, or whether you ever receive government rebates for your efforts, improving safety management is just a good idea. It results in fewer injuries and associated costs, and a happier and safer workplace with reduced turnover. Choose software that can put continual improvement of safety management within your grasp.

 Let VelocityEHS Help!

VelocityEHS gives you a comprehensive suite of innovative EHS management software products to help you implement, manage and improve your OHSMS so you can create a safer, more sustainable workplace.

Our Audit & Inspection software helps you create and deploy checklists for conducting internal audits across multiple locations so you can quickly and more accurately evaluate compliance with your OHSMS policies and procedures, as well as any applicable regulatory standards. It also makes it easier to instantly generate and assign corrective actions for individual checklist items when nonconformances are identified, then verify completion of actions during audit follow-ups.

To maintain an effective management system, you’ll also need to effectively train your employees on your policies and procedures. The VelocityEHS Training Management and On-Demand Training solutions help standardize safety training across your entire organization, while improving the visibility of training performance and driving employee engagement with your training programs. You can easily define individual or role-based training profiles and requirements, quickly deploy flexible and interactive training content, and improve accountability for training completion and performance, all from a single cloud-based platform.

Our Compliance Management solution helps you simplify scheduling and tracking of all tasks needed to build and maintain a certified safety management system. You can easily assign tasks to individual employees, track critical dates including certification and recertification dates, and establish recurring or non-recurring actions — giving you the visibility you need to keep your system running smoothly.

With the right tools in place, you’ll be better situated to maintain a world-class EHS culture that protects your employees and your business.