A Ministry of Labour inspection blitz has uncovered almost 8,000 youth safety violations in Ontario workplaces.
Inspectors found almost four violations per workplace on average, an increase on a previous blitz focused more broadly on vulnerable workers. That round of investigations found around an average of 2.4 infractions per workplace.
The latest checkups were conducted between May and August 2014, and involved over 2,500 workplace visits to ensure training and safety standards for new and young employees were being met.
In addition to issuing 7,941 compliance orders, which tell employers they are breaking the law and give a deadline to make changes, the Ministry also handed out 156 “stop work” orders. These indicate that a violation poses an imminent danger to a worker and must be stopped immediately.
The most common infractions were for failing to assess the risk of workplace violence, not having a violence and harassment policy, and failing to take “reasonable precautions” to protect young workers’ health and safety. Collectively, these represented 20 per cent of all orders issued by the Ministry.
Andrew Langille, a Toronto-based labour lawyer, said the inspection results “point to the problem that young workers are increasingly being exposed to vulnerabilities in the workplace and frankly unsafe work environments.”
“My thought is that the current enforcement strategy is failing….what we have now is too few inspectors being asked to do too much.”
“It worries me when we’re seeing one of the highest areas of violation to be around the anti-harassment provisions because that’s a big issue for young people as we’ve seen with the Ghomeshi issue or Dalhousie,” Langille added. “Psychological harassment can have a terrible effect on people’s day to day lives
Health and safety training is mandatory for workers and supervisors across the province. New and young employees are particularly vulnerable in the workplace, and are three times more likely to be hurt in their first month on the job than any other time in their career, according to the Ministry of Labour.
Craig MacBride, a spokesperson for Labour Minister Kevin Flynn, said workplace injuries in Ontario declined overall by 30 per cent between 2004 and 2011.
“This is great progress, but, as the inspection blitz shows, there’s always more to be done when it comes to worker safety,” he said.
“One thing we know is that if workers — particularly young and new workers — know their rights and know how to work safely, we can continue to reduce the number of injuries across the province.”