Occupational Health and Safety Act
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) applies to almost every workplace, supervisor and worker in Ontario. All workplaces must comply with the OHSA and its regulations to ensure safe working conditions wherever work takes place. For midwives, work locations may include clients’ homes, midwifery clinics, birth centres, hospitals social media and other community settings. And midwives, depending on their roles in a midwifery practice group (MPG), may be considered employers, supervisors and/or workers as defined by Section 25 of the OHSA.
OHSA legislation is based on the idea of an “internal responsibility system,” which means that everyone in a workplace is responsible for health and safety; “we’re all looking out for one another. It means that our goal, whether we say it out loud or not, is to go home safe... every time.” (1) To achieve this objective, the OHSA outlines three basic rights for workers: the right to know about hazards in the workplace, the right to participate in identifying and solving health and safety problems, and the right to refuse unsafe work. Furthermore, it imposes obligations on employers depending on the number of workers in the workplace, this pertains to midwives, employees and students, but not volunteers.
A midwife is a joint owner of a midwifery practice group. The midwife’s workplace includes the clinic, hospital, birth centre, clients’ homes and the midwife’s personal vehicle while commuting for work. The midwife is an employer (of the clerical staff member), a supervisor (of midwifery students) and a worker (as a practicing midwife).
Every year, the MOL conducts inspection “raids” and workplace compliance initiatives in a number of sectors, including healthcare. Their aim is to protect workers’ rights under the OHSA and the Employment Standards Act (ESA), raise awareness of hazards and ensure compliance with OHSA legislation. The MOL announces specific inspections’ areas of focus ahead of time; however, individual workplaces are not informed of the date and time of their inspections in advance.
Information about upcoming and past inspections, annual focuses and timelines are available on the MOL website. Since MPGs are healthcare facilities, MOL inspectors will also inquire about infection prevention and control (IPAC) practices that may expose workers to risk of infection transmission.
To ensure compliance with the OHSA, the AOM has developed a checklist for MPGs to use. If your practice is contacted by the MOL and requires support implementing the legislation, contact the AOM On Call team.
Workplace Safety and Prevention Services. Closing the Loop: Setting Up a Health & Safety System in Your Small Business. [Internet] Mississauga, ON. 2018. [cited 2019 Sept 24]. Available from: https://www.wsps.ca/WSPS/media/Site/Resources/Downloads/Closing-the-Loop-Generic-Version.pdf?ext=.pdf