IWH provides expertise to Ministry of Labour panel

The Institute for Work & Health (IWH) has been providing research expertise to a Ministry of Labour panel tasked with reviewing Ontario’s health and safety prevention and enforcement system.

Published: October 28, 2010

Led by Tony Dean, former secretary of cabinet and head of the Ontario Public Service, the Expert Advisory Panel includes nine members from organized labour, the employer community and independent experts. IWH Senior Scientist Dr. Ron Saunders has supported the work of the Panel secretariat in the role of scientific officer.

The panel has been examining best practices, both nationally and internationally, and will consider a number of issues including:

  • the roles and responsibilities of the system partners;
  • the impact of the underground economy on workplace health and safety;
  • the protection of vulnerable workers;
  • the use of incentives to motivate;
  • superior health and safety performance;
  • linking procurement of goods and services to health and safety performance;
  • the role of joint health and safety committees;
  • the impact of advancements in technology/innovation on health and safety; and 
  • mandatory entry-level health and safety training.

To support the panel’s work, IWH prepared reports on the organization of occupational health and safety services in seven jurisdictions, including three Canadian provinces, an Australian state, the United Kingdom, Germany and New Zealand. Four of these schemes, including Ontario, have the responsibility for occupational health and safety shared between two or more authorities. Three of these schemes have a single authority for occupational health and safety. The reports are available at www.iwh.on.ca/interjurisdictional-review

Eight working groups have been created to examine specific issues identified by the panel. Among these are groups focusing on the roles and responsibilities of system partners, vulnerable workers, the internal responsibility system, training, and data and performance measurement.

My main role has been to connect IWH researchers with working groups where there was research of relevance, says Saunders. To that end, IWH scientists have presented study findings on immigrant workers (Dr. Agnieszka Kosny, Dr. Peter Smith), incentives (Dr. Emile Tompa), leading indicators (Dr. Ben Amick) and OHS training (Dr. Lynda Robson). Saunders also participated as a member of the working group on vulnerable workers, and Smith was a member of the working group on data and performance measurement.

A special subcommittee of the panel was established to look at prevention of injury and illness in small businesses. Saunders provided the subcommittee with some background data on the small business sector and an overview of findings from IWH’s recent systematic review on health and safety in small businesses, led by Dr. Ellen MacEachen and Dr. Curtis Breslin.

The panel members bring diverse expertise to the table, with research playing a prominent role. In addition to leading labour and employer representatives, Adjunct Scientist Dr. Joan Eakin and IWH Board Member Carolyn Tuohy are panel members.

The working groups have reported their findings to the panel. Over the fall, the panel has begun to review these reports as well as the results of consultations. Panel members will discuss recommendations in time for Dean to submit the report to Minister of Labour Peter Fonseca in December.