Changes to Ontario Regulations Coming January 1, 2020 – Will You Be Ready?

Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda

Amendments to two regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act come into effect on January 1, 2020. If your workplace exposes workers to biological or chemical agents (Ont.Reg. 883/90) or to materials which are defined designated substances (Ont. Reg. 490/09), and you have not already done so, you should review the coming changes and ensure that your business will be compliant in 2020. Note that the two regulations are mutually exclusive for what each covers.

Set out below is a brief overview of the new requirements.

Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents Regulation 883/90

This regulation has undergone a number of amendments since it was first brought into law in the early days of workplace health and safety legislation. The coming changes affect the manner in which the employer must protect workers, including the application and testing of personal protective equipment (respirators), as well as the calculation of and acceptable exposure to biological or chemical agents covered in this regulation.

Section 1 changes and expands a number of definitions. Newly-defined terms include providing required personal protective equipment an “assigned protection factor,” which means the anticipated level of protection provided by a properly functioning respirator and the “C” or “ceiling limit”, the maximum airborne concentration to which a worker may be exposed. The new definition of “chemical agent” will include a “chemical substance.”

Additional new terms include the maximum use concentration, which is the maximum concentration of an airborne agent covered by the regulation that can be expected to protect a worker, as determined by the method set out. There is also a definition for short-term exposure limit (STEL) and of approved standard methods for workplace testing and analysis and tests for respirator fit.

The duties of employers will be expanded with specified additional measures to protect workers from exposure to biological and chemical agents and the use of the newly-mandated monitoring, sampling and determination of airborne concentrations as set out, with enhanced obligations with respect to a workplace respiratory protection program. There are new and expanded Schedules 1 and 2 regarding the measurement and calculation of exposure, as well as the assigned protection factor for respirators.

Designated Substances Regulation 490/09

Workplaces which contain designated substances have for many years been required to have in place methods to assess worker exposure and to protect against such exposure by, amongst other things, the use of personal protective equipment, worker medical assessments and programs. The regulation does not apply to an employer at a construction project (s. 14).

An amendment to s. 15 of the regulation confirms that an employer to whom the regulation applies with respect to a designated substance must take “every precaution reasonable in the circumstances” to ensure the protection of its own workers, and also workers of others, who are in the workplace and whose health is likely to be affected by exposure to the designated substance. In other words, the same level of protection must be afforded to contractors and third party workers as with respect to a business’s own people.

As with the first regulation, there are changes to the manner of airborne measurement and calculation of worker exposure.

Compliance – Stay out of Trouble

Businesses where workers may be exposed to biological and chemical agents and/or designated substances may well be on their way to compliance with the changes to the two regulations. However, if your business is not, do so immediately. If you are unsure whether you must comply because of the workplace exposure to any of these agents or substances, you should immediately confirm one way or the other. Be compliant by the end of 2019.

If an inspector attends your workplace in early January, you should be in a position to easily demonstrate your compliance with assessments, equipment and documents in place. Don’t wait to be ordered to take these steps or, worse, to be charged with an offence for non-compliance. Finally, as with all due diligence steps, make sure that the details mandated by the changes to the regulations are not only well documented, but easily accessible if required.