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Budget bill cuts workplace safety

Workplace Safety booklet, mask, first aid kit, helmet and gloves.

Toronto – The provincial government’s budget bill is set to help employers dodge workplace safety inspections and put workers in danger right across the province, the union representing Ontario’s occupational health and safety inspectors says.

Schedule 16 of Bill 70, currently being debated in the legislature, would change the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). The government says Schedule 16 will “reduce the burden of unnecessary processes, like routine inspection,” if employers meet certain accreditation criteria developed by private third-party consultants.

“Routine inspection is not an ‘unnecessary process,’” says Len Elliott, Regional Vice-President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union for southwestern Ontario. “Routine inspection is a cornerstone of our provincial health and safety system. It prevents injuries, it prevents occupational illness, and it saves lives.

“Health and safety inspectors write thousands of orders per year as a result of proactive inspections in workplaces that would be accredited by a typical accreditation process,” said Elliott, an occupational health and safety inspector in London. “Paper guidelines are meaningless if they are not backed up by regular, proactive enforcement.

“If Schedule 16 becomes law, there will be more critical injuries, and more fatalities, in Ontario workplaces,” he said. “I do not say this to be dramatic. It’s a fact.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas called on the government to delete Schedule 16 from Bill 70.

“Letting employers avoid proactive inspections by filling out a form is like letting speeders avoid tickets if they promise not to speed,” he said. “This kind of self-regulation is no regulation at all.”

Thomas called on all workers in the province to contact their MPP and send a message to Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn.

“We have to stop Schedule 16,” he said. “It’s a matter of life and death.”

OPSEU represents approximately 400 occupational health and safety officers in the MoL.

For more information: Len Elliott, 519-857-4000; Warren (Smokey) Thomas 613-329-1931