Contractor Safety Requirements
Contractors are sometimes a necessary requirement to help keep a business moving, but along with hiring them, comes the safety requirements involved. For the construction industry, contractors are necessary to help ensure a job runs smoothly and, in many cases, becomes cost-effective to use a Sub-Contractor for a specific task due to their expertise. Many job sites will have a crew that includes employees and sub-contractors.
For the other industries, Contractors can come in many forms including Brokers or Owners/Operators, Tradespeople, Maintenance Personnel, or even short-term assistance such as office help and consultants for HR, Health and Safety, Accounting, and General Business.
When it comes to health and safety in the workplace, contractors are widely known to be separate entities that are required to protect their own health and safety. This is not the case at all.
Legislative Safety Requirements
Who is in charge of the contractor safety requirements? If a Contractor is in your workplace to perform work, the ultimate responsibility for the health and safety of the Contractor and their employees falls on the Employer or Constructor, depending on which industry you are working in. Although all Employers are required to ensure the safety of their workers, the onus falls on to the person who is arranging the work.
Section 23 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires the Constructor to ensure that the measures and procedures prescribed in the Act and Regulations are carried out, every employer and worker on the project complies with the Act and Regulations, and the health and safety of every worker on the project is protected.
Section 29 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires Owners to ensure that facilities are provided and maintained as prescribed and that the workplace complies with the requirements of the Act and Regulations.
Contractor Management Programs
General Requirements: There are a few general contractor safety requirements that are simple to implement and can reduce potential work stoppages and fines.
Section 5 of the Regulation for Construction Projects (O. Reg. 213/91) requires Constructors to collect a Form 1000 from all Contractors and Subcontractors before beginning work at a project. Every constructor and employer engaged in construction must complete an approved-registration form and the form kept at the project.
Notice of Projects
The Constructor must provide to the MOL prior to starting projects and keep at a project the Notice of Project as per Section 6(1) of Regulation 213/91. This Notice of Project is required in many circumstances, but the general instances include when a project has a value greater than $50,000.00 or will last for a duration of 3 months or longer. There are few projects that do not require a Notice of Project, so the best practice is to obtain one before the project starts.
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) is an independent trust agency that administers compensation and no-fault insurance for Ontario workplaces. Coverage under WSIB is mandated in the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act. It is mandatory for most industries but there are exemptions for certain businesses/employers where coverage is not mandatory. This includes Schedule 2 Employers and Sole Proprietors with no Employees (except Construction).
In the Construction Industry coverage is mandatory. People who own or run a business in construction, with or without employees, must have coverage with the WSIB and need to register with WSIB. Under the current legislation, independent operators, sole proprietors, some partners in a partnership, and some executive officers who work in construction are required to have WSIB coverage. All Employers have 10 calendar days from the day you hire your first employee to register.
The WSIB issues a clearance to relieve the principal of liability for unpaid premiums and other amounts the contractor owes the WSIB, for the validity period of the clearance. Without a clearance, the principal may be liable for the contractor’s payment obligations to the WSIB, up to the value of the labour portion of the contract(s) between the contractor and the principal.
A principal who directly retains a contractor and sub-contractors to perform construction work must obtain a clearance certificate that confirms the contractor is in good standing with the WSIB prior to work beginning. It is an offense for both the principal and contractor to start without clearance.
Contractors must meet WSIB registration, reporting, and payment obligations to have their accounts in good standing, and to be eligible for a clearance. Clearances are valid for 90 days from the issue date and an updated clearance certificate must be obtained. These certificates must be retained for a period of 3 years.
Principals are guilty of an offense under the WSIA if they do not obtain a clearance before the contractor begins construction work, fail to renew the clearance if it expires or is revoked, permit a contractor to begin construction work during a period for which the principal is aware no clearance is in effect, and do not keep a record of clearances.
Contractors are guilty of an offense under WSIA if they fail to advise the principal a clearance being revoked or perform construction work for the principal without a clearance.
What Does This Mean for You?
This means that your Contractors or Sub-Contractors must comply with the contractor safety requirements you have set forth. If you have a health and safety rule or requirement for your workplace, not only do you have to ensure that your workers follow the rule or requirement, but your Contractors and Sub-Contractors must also comply. This can be difficult to navigate at times.
If a contractor does not have their own measures in place, it is difficult to get them to comply with your own contractor safety requirements. If you are in this position the best course of action is to remove them from the site or workplace if they choose not to comply.
Some tips to help ensure that your Contractors and Sub-Contractors are complying include but are not limited to:
- Ensure Contractors and Sub-Contractors are aware of the contractor safety requirements
- Ensure you have the required documentation from the Contractor prior to starting work
including MOL and WSIB requirements.
- If you have a rule regarding PPE on-site, tell them before they arrive to prevent surprise
issues. Provide a document prior to work starting.
- Ask for their health and safety policy to review. If they provide one, chances are it will be
easier to have them comply with your requirements but not always the case.
- Ask questions and have the Contractor or Sub-Contractor complete a safety
questionnaire. This can include incident statistics, Ministry interventions, and some
questions about their health and safety practices on site.
- Monitor the work performed. This includes designating someone as a company liaison
for the Contractor or Sub-Contractor.
- If the work involves a task that you are not familiar with the requirements (ex. Working
on Scissor Lifts/Ladders/Heights, Excavations) then look up the requirements or contact
a consultant who can assist with any questions you may have.
- Make sure you know what the Contractor or Sub-Contractor is required to do. This
protects them but also protects your workers.
- If you have Contractors and Sub-Contractors regularly visiting the workplace, keep a log to
manage the information provided.
- If the Contractor or Sub-Contractor is not complying with the requirements that you have
set out, provide one warning and ask them to comply. If they choose not to then ask
them to leave the facility/job site.
- Remember, on top of these health and safety requirements, with the current COVID-19
pandemic, you must also ensure your Contractors and Sub-Contractors follow your
requirements for the workplace. This includes screening measures, physical distancing,
masks, cleaning, and sanitizing.
An employer must do everything reasonable under the circumstances to protect the health and safety of workers (Section 25(2)(h)). This requirement does extend to Contractors and Sub-Contractors on-site and there have been recent court proceedings where Employers end up on the hook when an accident occurs on their workplace/job site.
Do yourself a favour and do everything you can to avoid any liability on your end. Contractor Management Programs are a great tool to help you limit your liability in the event of an incident. Setting one up can be as simple as a phone call to myself to get started. Find out more here.