Vulnerable Workers Priority for Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety System



Ontario’s first-ever integrated strategy for occupational health and safety is designed to prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities and to improve the delivery of workplace health and safety. The five-year strategy was developed by the Ontario Ministry of Labour in consultation with business, labour groups, health and safety associations and residents of Ontario. The strategy includes targeted outreach to raise awareness about the rights and responsibilities of workers and their employers. This is to ensure all workers, especially vulnerable workers who are most at risk, receive the help they need.

Like all employees, vulnerable workers need a safe workplace. However, for various reasons, vulnerable workers may sometimes choose to take risks to keep their jobs. They may also be at greater risk of having their rights violated due to not knowing or understanding their occupational rights and responsibilities. The term “vulnerable workers” includes newcomers, temporary foreign workers in low skill jobs and those whose first language is neither English nor French.

There is an opportunity for OCASI members to provide feedback on the government’s vulnerable worker plans and activities to date as well as voice their ideas and organizational needs to better protect and assist their clients to stay healthy and safe at work.

Provincial Specialist for Vulnerable Workers

In 2013, the ministry hired a provincial specialist for vulnerable workers to work jointly with three ministry divisions – Operations, Policy and Prevention.

The specialist’s job is to plan, recommend and develop strategies and policies that advance the ministry's objectives of protecting vulnerable workers in Ontario. The role includes developing new, non-traditional partnerships with not-for-profit, community-based external stakeholders that assist, help integrate and advocate on behalf of newcomers who are looking to settle and work in Ontario.

The Ministry of Labour recognizes that advocacy groups can play a key role in influencing and participating in the strategy to improve vulnerable workers’ health and safety. The Ministry of Labour would like to consult with OCASI member agencies and organizations that serve immigrants and refugees to help guide the ministry in setting and developing outreach strategies to prevent injuries and better protect newcomers working in Ontario.

The ministry would also benefit from OCASI members’ ability to distribute ministry information products and resource materials directly to newcomers.

In addition to consulting with OCASI members, the Ministry of Labour would also keep OCASI members informed on:

  • the ministry’s operations activities, including what inspectors look for during proactive enforcement activities
  • the role of the Provincial Health and Safety Contact Centre
  • the ministry’s online information resources and tools to help workers and employers comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations
  • training and educational services offered by the ministry’s health and safety system partners to assist newcomers and their employers