TORONTO — The Ontario government has introduced legislation to protect workers on the job and save lives. If passed, the Working for Workers Act, 2022 (Working for Workers Act 2), will require workplaces that are at risk of a worker opioid overdose to have naloxone kits. The legislation would also introduce the highest fines in Canada for companies that fail to follow workplace health and safety laws.
“Everyone in our province knows someone who has been impacted by the opioid epidemic,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “These are brothers, sisters, mothers and daughters, and we need to do everything in our power to save lives. That is why our government is bringing life-saving naloxone kits to high-risk settings such as construction sites, bars and nightclubs.”
Approximately 2,500 people died from opioid-related causes between March 2020 and January 2021 – of the victims who were employed, 30 per cent were construction workers, by far the most of any industry impacted. Bars and nightclubs are also seeing increased opioid usage, which often involve recreational drugs laced with deadly opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil.
“While Ontario’s workers have been there to support us before and during this horrible pandemic, it’s just as important that we are there to support them,” said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “By ensuring access to life-saving naloxone kits where and when our workers need them, our government is helping to protect more Ontarians struggling with addiction from preventable deaths and taking decisive action to address the challenges of the opioid crisis.”
Naloxone is a medication that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and allow time for medical help to arrive. Requiring businesses in high-risk settings to have naloxone kits on hand will help reduce the stigma around opioid abuse, raise awareness about the risks of accidental overdoses, and potentially save hundreds of lives a year. Also included in Working for Workers Two are changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act to increase the maximum fines for businesses that fail to protect their workers to the highest in the country.
The proposed increased fines would reinforce the importance of putting worker safety first and further penalize those that treat injuries as the cost of doing business. Officers and directors of businesses that do not provide a safe work environment that leads to a worker being severely injured or dying on the job could face fines of up to $1.5 million under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) if convicted. Charges for other individuals are also rising to up to $500,000.
These actions are part of Ontario’s ambitious plan to attract the best workers from across Canada and around the world by making the province the best place to live, work and raise a family. This follows legislation in the fall to remove unfair and discriminatory barriers against foreign-trained professionals, the “Right to Disconnect”, and the banning of non-compete clauses.
Proposed legislation also requires training to ensure workers are familiar with how to use naloxone kits. In addition, the OHSA would not limit or prohibit the use of naloxone to clients, customers or anyone else in an emergency.
Naloxone is an effective intervention and can prevent death if administered quickly.
The proposed legislation would also increase the limitation period for commencing a prosecution from one year to two years for a violation under OHSA.
Occupational Health and Safety Act