08 Jan Milestones of OH&S in Canada
We are proud to work in a country that is committed to the health and safety of their workers, and it is our responsibility as an organization to provide the training and preventative measures to avoid workplace injury or death. Complying with safety regulations may be a prerequisite of doing business in today’s market, but it has not always been that way. Here are some key dates in the history of occupational health and safety regulation in Canada:
1886 – The first workers’ compensation act in Canada is established, which allow a worker to take legal action against their employer.
1884 – The Canadian government implements The Factory Act of 1884. However, it does little to prevent accident or injury, instead restricts hours of work for “more sensitive” workers.
1964 – A deadly workplace accident claims the lives of five workers, spurring the government to update the Factory Act of 1884 to the Industrial Safety Act of 1964. The new act redefines safety as “freedom from injury to the body or freedom from damage to health”, effectively putting the responsibility on employers to take reasonable precautions to increase safety for their workers.
1972 – Saskatchewan becomes the first province to pass its own Occupational Health & Safety Act, prompting companies to create internal systems
that make health and safety the responsibility of the employer and employees. The legislation focuses on the workers’ right to know about hazards in the workplace, the right to participate in health and safety discussions at work, and the right to refuse unsafe work.
1985 – April 28th is declared “Day of Mourning” by the Canadian Labour Congress in remembrance of persons killed in workplace incidents.
1988 – WHMIS becomes law on October 31, 1988, in response to workers’ right to know about the safety and health hazards that may be associated with the materials or chemicals they use to work.
2004 – The Canadian government passes Bill C-45, amending the Criminal Code. It allows criminal prosecution and liability of organizations wherein workers have faced occupational health and safety violations that have resulted in injury or death.
2009 – Most provinces implement legislation addressing workplace violence and harassment.
Today – Health and safety programs is a continuing conversation in our workplaces with the support of the federal and provincial governments. With the mind of continuous improvement, we should all be working together to identify risks, prevent incidents, and maintain a safe and healthy workplace.