COVID-19 has impacted the way businesses are run with almost all employees now working from home. It is time for employers to stay abreast of the legal requirements to operate their businesses in a safe manner. In this blog, we will discuss Canada ergonomics requirements, key legislation and guidelines to be followed in Canada.
Canada Ergonomics Requirements
Employers who are covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1 (OSHA), and its regulations, are obliged to protect workers from hazards due to poor ergonomics, such as:
- musculoskeletal disorder (MSD)
Clause 25(2)(a) of the OHSA, requires employers to provide their workers information, instruction, and supervision to protect their health and safety. This may include:
- safe-work methods specific to the workplace that target a reduction in MSD risk
- manual materials handling techniques (for example, safe lifting, team lifting, site-specific lifting, safe pushing/pulling, etc.)
- client or patient handling techniques and use of mechanical lifts and transfer aids
- computer ergonomics
- safe ways of using equipment
- how to recognize the signs and symptoms of MSDs and the importance of early reporting
- how to recognize and report MSD hazards
- workstation setup and work practices that reduce MSD risk
Employers must also make sure that workers are supervised so they perform the work safely and follow the information and instruction correctly.
Noting that MSDs are frequently reported, it is deemed a lost-time work injury and should be reported to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board in Ontario. The Ministry of Labour, Skills and Training Development has published a guidance document, Ergonomics in the workplace: understanding the law that provides information on related Occupational Safety and Health laws and ways to tackle hazards due to poor ergonomics, which include MSDs, which include;
- blood vessels
- spinal discs
Canada Environmental Health and Safety / EHS Requirements
The Labour Program is part of the Employment and Social Development Canada portfolio that protects the rights and wellbeing of both workers and employers in federally regulated workplaces.
It is the general duty of an employer under the Canada Labour Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. L-2) , to protect the health and safety at work of every person employed by the employer. Some of the specific duties of an employer are as below:
- investigate, record and report in the manner and to the authorities as prescribed all accidents, occupational diseases and other hazardous occurrences known to the employer.
- serious injuries to be reported to the Labour Program within 24 hours
- submit written investigation reports (include all the information required on the Hazardous Occurrence Investigations Report – LAB1070) to the Labour Program, for all temporary and permanently disabling injuries, within 14 days of the occurrence. include all the information required on the Hazardous Occurrence Investigations Report – LAB1070.
- ensure that the workplace, workspaces, and procedures meet prescribed ergonomic standards.
- develop, implement, and monitor, in consultation with the policy committee or, if there is no policy committee, with the workplace committee or the health and safety representative, a prescribed program for the prevention of hazards in the workplace appropriate to its size and the nature of the hazards in it that also provides for the education of employees in health and safety matters.
- ensure that the workplace committee or the health and safety representative inspect each month all or part of the workplace so that every part of the workplace is inspected at least once each year
Information on workplace hazards, rights and responsibilities, health and wellness, injury prevention, compensation and the federal Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System is publicly available on the government of Canada’s website section on Workplace Safety and Health.
The CCOHS updates weekly, key information on what kinds of gatherings are permitted, various travel restrictions across the country as well as linking health and safety guidance provided for businesses as people return to serving the public. This tracker will be regularly updated to provide the current information as the situation across Canada changes.
As of 25 March 2020, the Canadian government announced the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act to help individuals and business overcome the developing situation with the necessary support. Benefits such as Unemployment Insurance (EI) program that from 27 September 2020, provides financial assistance to Canadians with a minimum benefit rate of $500 weekly before taxes. To avoid lay-offs, the government is offering a wage subsidy covering up to 75% of an employee’s wages for qualifying eligible employers, with this subsidy rate in effect until March 13, 2021.
More information on COVID-19 and prevention measures is available on the government of Canada’s website on https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
What can you do as an Employer to ensure compliance?
Develop and/or Update the COVID-19 Response Plan
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Safety and Health (CCOHS) has published on its website, useful information on health and safety planning for employers, COVID-19 Health and Safety Planning for Employers.
Some of the key actions as below:
- address the level(s) of risk associated with various workplaces and work activities in the COVID-19 business plans and OSH risk assessments. For example, where, how and to what sources of COVID-19 might workers be exposed, including the public, customers, co-workers etc.
- consider worker’s individual risk factors (i.e., older workers, presence of underlying medical conditions, etc.).
- include in the plan a response plan to deal with a suspected case of COVID-19.
- Regular update to staff on updates on work arrangements or other useful information via appropriate channels, i.e., Intranet, emails, virtual town hall meetings, etc.
Keeping updated with legal updates is as important as having to comply with them. It is a chargeable offence to be non-compliant which can result with penalty along with jail term depending on the severity of the event.
How can Fit for Work help?
To learn more about setting up or managing an ergonomics programme that supports staff working from home or in the office or support with staying legally compliant, you can reach out to Fit for Work at email@example.com. For more information on our Ergonomics Self-Assessment and Education Tool, visit www.deskeval.com