Ontario Provincial Council of Machinists

Justice on the Job. Service to the Community.


OPCM Health & Safety Report

Rick Sansom

OPCM Health & Safety Coordinator

June 2, 2023

Ontario Reacts to Workplace Opioid Epidemic

The Ontario government is launching a first-of-its-kind program to make free naloxone kits (and free training) available at workplaces where there is a risk of staff witnessing or experiencing an opioid overdose.

In 2021, 2,819 people died from opioid-related causes in Ontario – the highest number on record and up from 366 in 2003. Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose, restore breathing within two to five minutes, and allow time for medical help to arrive.

“Ontario, like the rest of Canada, is in the middle of an opioid epidemic made worse by a toxic supply of recreational street drugs,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. “That’s why our government is the first in North America to require naloxone kits be accessible in at-risk workplaces by June 1, 2023, to raise awareness for those struggling with addition, reduce stigma and save lives.”

Businesses can determine if they are eligible for the program and find additional information on accessing naloxone kits and training at Ontario.ca/workplacenaloxone. Once the requirement is in effect, Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development’s inspectors will take an education-first approach to enforcement.

Quick Facts

  • On June 1, 2023, at-risk employers will be required by legislation to ensure their workplaces have life-saving naloxone kits and workers are trained on how to use them.
  • This includes employers who become aware, or ought reasonably to be aware, that there may be a risk of an opioid overdose in their workplace, i.e., if a worker discloses an opioid use issue, if needles or other opioid paraphernalia are found at the workplace, or if they are otherwise given information that would lead them to reasonably conclude there is a risk of an overdose in the workplace.
  • Businesses with questions about their responsibilities under the legislation can visit Ontario.ca/workplacenaloxone.
  • For up to two years, the Workplace Naloxone Program provides at-risk employers with access to free training for up to two workers and one nasal spray naloxone kit for each eligible workplace.
  • Separately, individuals can also contact their local pharmacy to receive a naloxone kit.
  • To protect the health and safety of workers in Ontario, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development has hired over 100 new inspectors to build the largest workplace inspectorate in the province’s history and increased occupational health and safety fines to the highest level in
    the country.

*changes are in Sec. 25.2 of OHSA

Soon To Be Enacted …Bigger Fines

New Ontario legislation will increase the maximum fine that may be imposed on a corporation convicted of an offence under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) from $1.5 million to $2 million. This would give Ontario the highest maximum corporate fines under workplace health and safety legislation in Canada, build on changes announced in the Working for Workers Act, 2022, and reinforce the importance of putting worker safety first and further penalize employers that treat injuries as the cost of doing business.

Material Handling Initiative & Inspection Blitz

From April 1, 2023 – March 31, 2024, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD) will be conducting a Material Handling webinar focused on facilities or operations where large or bulky materials, articles or things are lifted, carried, or moved. Focused Inspections related to Material Handling that put workers at risk of being injured by their movement will begin on May 1, 2023 until March 31st 2024.

Inspections begin May 1 and the following industries may be visited:

  • Farming and Agricultural Services
  • Automotive
  • Chemical, rubber and plastics
  • Food, beverage & tobacco
  • Industrial services
  • Primary metals
  • Pulp & paper
  • Transportation
  • Wood and Metal Fabrication

Number of workers killed on the job is 10 times higher than official reports: WHSC

The number of workers killed because of their jobs last year was 10 times higher than the official number, according to the Workers Health and Safety Centre (WHSC).

Well in excess of 2,000 Ontarians died last year as a result of traumatic incidents and hazardous exposures at work, according to estimates supported by research evidence, it said in a press release.

“And even this alarming toll is a conservative estimate according to this same research evidence,” it said.

Yet, the province’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) recognized just 220 worker death claims in 2022 — and it noted that lower figure is often the “default statistic” shared when discussing the number of workers killed each year.

“This routine of under recognition in many ways is an affront to the suffering of workers, their families and communities,” said Andrew Mudge, executive director, Workers Health and Safety Centre (WHSC). “Failure to shed light on the true toll of suffering serves only to downplay the collective need to more aggressively pursue safer, healthier work through enhanced regulations, stronger regulatory enforcement and ultimately workplace prevention efforts.”

While most, if not all, traumatic deaths at work get reported to the WSIB, very few deaths caused by occupational disease are reported to or recognized by the WSIB, according to WHSC.

This is particularly the case for cancer, lung diseases and other chronic illnesses with long latency periods between workplace exposure(s) and disease onset. Consider, for instance, estimates suggesting between 600 and 5,000 Ontarians died in 2022 from work-related cancer alone, it said.

There is also under reporting and recognition of injuries and illness caused by mental health, violence, COVID-19 and other respiratory infections caused by workplace transmission.

“We recognize it is not the mandate of the WSIB to capture the true toll of suffering,” said Mudge. “We also recognize though a more accurate picture of worker deaths, injuries and illnesses must be prioritized and widely communicated.”

H&S Training Available in Niagara

The Niagara Regional Labour Council (NRLC) hosts multiple training opportunities each year to support workers, joint committee members, health and safety representatives and others seeking to expand their roles as labour advocates in their workplace, union and community. The next opportunity is the NRLC Summer 2023 Educational scheduled for Monday, July 17, 2023, to Friday, July 21, 2023 at the Best Western St. Catharines Hotel and Conference Centre.

This in-person school is open to workers, worker representatives and community advocates from the Niagara Region and across Ontario. It will feature occupational health and safety training developed specifically for the labour movement by Workers Health & Safety Centre (WHSC) along with workers comp advocacy training developed by Ontario Federation of Labour’s Prevention Link
REGISTER NOW for one of the following programs. Don’t delay! Access is limited.
WHSC Level 1: Basic Occupational Health & Safety Awareness
WHSC Level 2: Federal Law
WHSC OH&S Training Bundle (consists of seven hazard-specific modules)*
OFL Prevention Link: WSIB Level 1 & 2
OFL Prevention Link: WSIB Level 5 Medical Orientation

*this program runs from Wednesday, July 19 to Friday, July 21, 2023

INFO at: nrlc.clc@gmail.com