There are fourteen jurisdictions in Canada - one federal, ten provincial and three territorial each having its own occupational health and safety legislation. For most people in Canada, the agency that you would contact is the provincial or territorial agency in the area where you work. There are some exceptions to this. Federal legislation covers employees of the federal government and Crown agencies and corporations across Canada.
Occupational health and safety (OH&S) legislation in Canada outlines the general rights and responsibilities of the employer, the supervisor and the worker. Each of the ten provinces, three territories and the federal government has its own OH&S legislation.
There is special "right-to-know" legislation that applies to hazardous products. It actually comprises several pieces of legislation collectively called WHMIS - the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System. It is a comprehensive plan for providing information on hazardous materials intended for use in workplaces. WHMIS applies in all Canadian workplaces which are covered by occupational health and safety legislation and where WHMIS-controlled products are used.
The federal health and safety legislation is commonly referred to as Canada Labour Code Part II and regulations. The Canada Labour Code also applies to employees of companies or sectors that operate across provincial or international borders. These businesses include:
Approximately 10% of the Canadian workforce falls under the OH&S jurisdiction of the federal government. The remaining 90% of Canadian workers fall under the legislation of the province or territory where they work.
In each province or territory, there is an act (typically called the Occupational Health and Safety Act or something similar) which applies to most workplaces in that region. The Act usually applies to all workplaces except private homes where work is done by the owner, occupant, or servants. Generally, it does not apply to farming operations unless made to do so by a specific regulation. The legislation should be consulted to find out who is or is not covered.
At the provincial and territorial level, the name of the government department responsible for OH&S varies with each jurisdiction. Usually it is called a ministry or department of labour. In some jurisdictions, it is a workers' compensation board or commission that has the responsibility for occupational health and safety. Each provincial or territorial department is responsible for the administration and enforcement of its occupational health and safety act and regulations. A list of Canadian government departments with chief responsibility for occupational health and safety is available elsewhere on this site.
Document last updated on July 8, 2008