It pays to be safe. In fact, there is millions of dollars up for grabs as part of a new provincial program that seeks to reward it safest employers – the first program of its kind in Canada.
The province recently announced it has earmarked an estimated $140 million for excellence in occupational health and safety, with the financial reward coming in the form of Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) rebates over a three-year period.
“We know that good health and safety practices save lives,” said Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton. “But they also save money. This program is a reflection of that fact,” he said during the program’s unveiling on Nov. 22.
“Our government wants to do everything it can to make workers safer and help businesses save money,” McNaughton added.
Research has shown that organized, systematic approaches to health and safety increase worker participation in health and safety practices, encourage improvement and help reduce workplace injuries and illness. Similar programs in Europe and Japan have resulted in a decline in workplace accidents.
Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer (CPO) said: “This is a big step for Ontario’s health and safety community as we continue to move forward in protecting workers.”
“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.”
The program is open to any employer in Ontario, regardless of size or sector. Led by the office of the CPO, the ministry program was developed based on feedback from labour, employers and other stakeholders.
The WSIB is also building on the program by launching Health and Safety Excellence,a new program that will promote continual health and safety improvement in Ontario workplaces.
While the provincial program recognizes employers, who have already implemented a health and safety management system, the WSIB’s program will encourage employers without an existing program to develop one.
“We know that businesses across the province strive to make their workplaces as healthy and safe as possible for their employees,” said Elizabeth Witmer, WSIB chair. “Our new Health and Safety Excellence program gives them a roadmap to improve health and safety, whether they’re just getting started or want to optimize processes they already have in place.”
These initiatives are part of the government’s commitment to encouraging a culture of health and safety to protect workers on the job and build a prosperous province.
Consisting of 36 topics, businesses can proceed at their own pace, earning rebates and other recognition as they go. Concluding the program makes businesses eligible for the Ontario government’s accreditation program.
The names of recognized employers will be posted on the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development’s website. These employers will be able to brand themselves as CPO-recognized.
“We have supported the concept of accreditation and recognizing good employers for the past ten years and are pleased that the current government is moving forward with this important health and safety initiative,” said Ontario Council of Construction Associations President Ian Cunningham.