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Ontario has significantly raised the maximum fines that can be assessed against individuals and businesses that violate workplace health and safety standards.
As of Dec. 14, the maximum fine for corporations for a violation of the Canadian province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act increased to CA$1.5 million ($1.2 million) from CA$500,000, a level that had not changed since 1990, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the Ontario Ministry of Labor. In addition, the maximum fine against an individual or unincorporated business rose to CA$100,000 from CA$25,000, a level that had not changed since 1979, according to the ministry.
Ontario also revised the prosecution time limit from one year from the date of the violation to one year from the date an inspector becomes aware of the alleged violation.
In 2016-17, ministry inspectors conducted more than 70,000 visits to workplaces and issued more than 118,000 orders because of noncompliance with Ontario’s workplace safety statute.
In 2016, courts imposed more than CA$11 million in fines and entered more than 2,200 convictions against workplace parties for violations of the safety statute and regulations, according to the ministry.
“While fines imposed by the courts for corporate offenders have generally fallen short of the maximum amount, one might speculate that, with these dramatic changes, courts will soon be assessing much higher fines for more serious or repeat violations,” Michael Comartin, a Toronto-based associate, and John Illingworth, Toronto-based of counsel, for law firm Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart P.C. said in a blog post Wednesday.
Employers will now be required to notify the ministry if a health and safety representative or committee “has identified potential structural inadequacies of a workplace as a source of danger or hazard to workers” and will have expanded accident and incident reporting obligations, they said.
Ontario has adopted legislation to create a presumption that post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosed in first responders is work-related, streamlining their ability to access workers compensation benefits.