The first workers’ compensation regime in Canada was enacted in Ontario in 1914. Prior to workers’ compensation legislation, many injured workers had to sue their employers in court under common law for just compensation. It was possible to win a case against the employer, but it was costly, and the worker had to prove the employer was negligent. Some labour unions facilitated their own accident resources, but only a minority of the work force was covered.
In 1910, Mr. Justice William Meredith was appointed to a Royal Commission to study workers’ compensation. The Meredith Report (Meredith Principles) was released in 1913 and outlined a trade-off in which workers relinquish their right to sue an employer in exchange for compensation benefits. The Meredith Principles ensure that employers fund the compensation system and share the liability for injured workers. In return, injured workers receive benefits while they recover, but cannot sue their employers. The Meredith Principles are the foundation of all provincial and federal workers’ compensation systems in Canada.
What are the Meredith Principles?
No Fault Compensation: Workers’ injuries are compensated regardless of how the injury occurred. The worker and the employer waive the right to sue. Fault is irrelevant; providing compensation is the focus.
Security of Benefits: A fund is established to guarantee compensation funds exist and will be available to all workers.
Collective Liability: The total cost of the compensation system is funded by the employers. Employers contribute to a common fund. Financial liability becomes their collective responsibility.
Independent Administration: The boards that administer workers’ compensation insurance are financially independent and separate from government.
Exclusive Jurisdiction: All compensation claims are administered directly by the compensation board. The board is the final decision-maker and is not bound by legal precedent.
The various jurisdictional Workers’ Compensation Acts across Canada outline the roles and responsibilities of the worker, the employer, and the compensation board.
What are the workers’ responsibilities?
Report the illness or injury to the employer;
Mitigate further loss; and
Cooperate with the employer when suitable modified duties are offered.
What are the employers’ responsibilities?
Provide first aid, pay for transportation for medical treatment (if required), and report the injury or illness to the respective Workers’ Compensation Board;
Pay full wages and benefits for the day or shift on which the injury occurred;
Investigate the incident and keep a record of steps taken to correct the problem; and
Provide and offer suitable, modified work to allow for an early and safe return to work.
What are the boards’ responsibilities?
Review reported incidents and determine benefits entitlement;
Issue loss of earning and/or benefits where applicable;
Interpret and administer workers’ compensation legislation; and
Review evidence and make decisions on appeals initiated by the worker, the employer, or the third-party adjuster.
Are all workers covered by workers’ compensation in Canada?
There are some industries that do not have to be a part of the workers’ compensation system. These industries include, but are not limited to:
Health care practices;
Barbers / hair salons;
Private clubs / health clubs;
For more information, contact your Workplace Health and Safety Committee, or your Local Union Representative.
Noise is one of the most common workplace health hazards that can lead to permanent hearing loss in industrial and manufacturing environments such as food processing plants.
What are sound and noise?
Sound is what we hear.
Noise can be best defined as unpleasant and unwanted sound.
When you clap your hands, the surrounding air vibrates in the form of ‘sound’ waves, much like waves on water. Sound may be pleasant to one person but be unbearable noise to someone else. Certain music can be pleasurable sound to one person and an annoying noise to another. In either case, it can be hazardous to a person's hearing if the sound is loud, and if employees are exposed for long periods of time.
Does noise bother everyone?
Most people say they become accustomed to the noise that is part of their everyday environment. That does not mean their hearing is not being damaged by continuous exposure to noise; it may mean their hearing is already damaged.
Noise causes hearing damage even though you do not feel any pain. It happens so slowly that most people may not be aware they are suffering from hearing loss. Some people compensate for their hearing loss by turning up the radio, stereo, or television.
How can I tell if my workplace is too loud?
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, your workplace may have a noise problem.
Do people have to raise their voices for you to hear them?
Do you work in noisy environments and have ringing in your ears at the end of your shift?
Do you find when you return home from work that you must increase the volume on your car radio higher than you did when you went to work?
If you have worked in a noisy workplace for years, do you have problems understanding conversations at parties, restaurants, or in crowds where there are many voices and ‘competing’ noises?
What can be done about noise in the workplace?
Remember that your hearing is at stake.
If you suspect that you are regularly being exposed to high sound levels, inform your employer, your union, or your health and safety committee or representative.
Your employer must maintain your noise exposure level at a level not exceeding 87 dBA, either by:
Using engineering devices to reduce the noise; or
Shortening the duration of exposure and providing you with adequate hearing protection.
Where technology cannot adequately control the problem, personal hearing protection (such as ear plugs) can be used.
Personal protection should be considered as an interim measure while other means of reducing workplace noise are being explored and implemented.
A workplace health and safety representative and union steward’s ability to take accurate notes is one of the most important skills required to perform their duties. Taking notes is a significant part of the job of every workplace health and safety advocate and union steward.Research studies have shown that you can forget up to 90 percent of what you have learned in less than a week, which is one why notetaking is so essential.
Antimicrobial Resistance happens when bacteria change and become resistant to medications used to treat the infections they cause. In many cases antibiotics are over prescribed and the bacteria evolve and mutate into superbugs that can cause untreatable infections in people. This compromises the ability of medications including antibiotics to treat infectious diseases.
Antibiotics are also used in the raising of animals for food to promote growth, and this is of great concern. The misuse and overuse of these antibiotics in the raising of animal for food results in drug resistant bacteria that is present in the food chain from farm to table. Workers on farms and slaughter houses are at higher risk of exposure.
Meat and poultry processing workers can be at risk of contracting antimicrobial resistant disease through handling infected carcasses, work tools and raw meat products. The risk of contracting resistant bacteria increases if the worker has an open cut or wound as the disease carrying the resistant microbes can only enter the body through broken skin. Infected workers may carry these dangerous microbes home to family and community.
Over 750,000 people die every year from being infected with bacteria that is resistant to medication including antibiotics.
If left unattended, drug resistant bacteria may evolve into one of the most significant public health challenges worldwide with an expected 10 million people dying every year by 2050.
The best way to protect workers is to remove or eliminate the hazard from the workplace.
The Ontario Ministry of Labour has announced changes to the Joint Health Safety Committee Certification Part 1 training that weaken Ontario's health and safety regime for workers. The government is giving businesses an additional option of having their employees take a self-paced online course, in addition to the in-person classroom training. Many adult learners require active participation, and merely providing them with information does not ensure that learning occurs.The concern here is that a great number of employers will not provide employees with the option to choose between the online or in-class training, and instead will make the online training their only option. Another major concern is the verification of the training participant.
Doug Ford’s Conservative government is trying to claim that online training will be more efficient and cost-effective than in-person, hands-on training because the latter can require participants to spend time away from family and constitutes a major cost to employers. The government also claims this change will save Ontario businesses an estimated $5 million. But these savings will come at the expense of workplace safety and will put workers' health at risk.
A joint health & safety committee (JHSC) is the cornerstone of a well-functioning workplace that utilizes an internal responsibility system. With 208 deaths and 57,368 accidents reported in Ontario workplaces in 2017, health and safety culture needs to be strengthened rather than weakened. Workplace JHSCs are democratic entities that are comprised of worker and employer representatives. They help identify and assess potential hazards at work, empower members to make recommendations that can reduce or eliminate health and safety risks, and are essential to fostering safe and healthy workplaces.
Reducing the training requirements for JHSC members sends a message that workplace health and safety is not a priority for Doug Ford and the Ontario Conservatives. Ontario workers deserve better than this, and UFCW Canada believes the recent changes to JHSC training requirements should be reversed.