Occupational Health & Safety Act
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) protects the health and safety of all workers, not just employees, in the workplace. For midwives the workplace includes the client's home, the midwifery clinic, hospitals as well as other community settings. The legislation is based on the idea of an “Internal Responsibility System,” which means that everyone is responsible for health and safety. As the Ministry of Labour says, “it means that 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.”
To achieve this objective, the OHSA gives workers three basic rights: 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. Further to these rights, it imposes obligations on employers depending on the number of workers in the workplace, which includes midwives, employees, and students, but not volunteers.
To comply with this legislation, practices need to:
- Appoint a health and safety representative or committee: For practices with six to 19 workers, identify a health and safety representative. For practices with 20 or more workers, develop a health and safety committee with at least one worker and one management representative. The Ministry of Labour offers a free online Health and Safety training program, which may be useful for those individuals accepting this responsibility.
- For practices with five or more workers, develop a health and safety policy that is reviewed annually.
- Implement a safety program, which typically involves identifying safety hazards (e.g., through the use of a checklist) and implementing measures to address the risks identified. In a midwifery clinic those measures may include the control of keys, safety alarms, and the management of visitors, smoke detectors, personal protective equipment, and training on handling of hazardous materials and equipment with access to relevant Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). Midwifery practice groups also have an option to opt into Workplace Safety and Insurance Board coverage.
- Develop a policy on workplace violence and harassment, including provisions for sexual harassment, and review it at least annually. The policy must be in writing and posted for workers to see at practices with six or more workers.
- As often as necessary assess the risks of workplace violence (including domestic violence) and share the results with the health and safety committee, the health and safety representative, or the workers.
- Prepare and implement a program to control the identified risks of workplace violence (including bullying) and accept reports, investigate, and respond to violence and harassment.
- In a place where workers will see it, post the Health and Safety at Work: Prevention Starts Here poster, a copy of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the practice’s occupational health and safety policy (if in writing). Placing the items in a binder does not meet the posting requirement.
More information is available on the rights, responsibilities, and processes under the OHSA through the Ministry of Labour’s Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.