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A Beginner's Guide to Evaluating Your Workplace Health and Safety Checklist

health and safety Apr 21, 2023
a beginner's guide to evaluating your workplace health and safety checklist


If you don’t have an up-to-date workplace health and safety checklist, now is a great time to review it in order to avoid potentially hefty fines. On March 20, 2023, the Ontario government tabled Bill 79, Working for Workers Act, that proposes changes to legislation to provide greater protection for workers. One proposal is to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) by increasing fines for corporations convicted of an OHSA offence from $1.5 million to $2 million.

Under OHSA, employers are responsible for the health and safety of the workplace. This includes keeping a safe and well-maintained workplace, taking all reasonable precautions to protect workers from illness and injury, and providing information, equipment, and training to employees.

Depending on your workplace, there are different types of hazards your employees may be exposed to. Employers should assess potential hazards within their specific workplace sectors and develop strategies to control those hazards. However, there are some common workplace hazards that all employers should be aware of.

Note that this site information is for educational and informational purposes only, and does not constitute medical or legal advice. The following information is an overview of types of hazards and basic employer responsibilities. Please review the applicable laws and regulations in your region for more details.


Ergonomics: MSDs and Falls

Under OHSA, employers are legally obligated to protect workers from hazards due to poor ergonomics, such as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and fall hazards. Ergonomics is the science of fitting a job or task with the physical and mental capabilities of the worker. Applying proper ergonomic principles, including good body positioning, task design, and workstation design, can reduce injuries and improve productivity in the workplace. The employer’s obligation to reduce risks includes keeping equipment in good condition, providing information, instruction, and supervision, communicating hazards, taking every reasonable precaution in the circumstances, and conducting monthly health and safety inspections.

Musculoskeletal Disorders

MSDs are the number one type of lost-time work injury reported to WSIB in Ontario, causing thousands of workers pain and suffering every year and costing workplaces millions of dollars due to worker absence and lost productivity1. They can be caused by repetitive movement, awkward positioning, static body posture, and excessive force. Most work involves the use of the upper extremities; understandably, these are the common locations for MSDs to occur, often impacting the hands, wrists, elbows, neck, and shoulders.

Falls, Slips, and Trips

A majority of falls in the workplace occur due to tripping and slipping. Falls can be prevented by ensuring that the workspace is free of hazards such as cords and wires, loose carpet, spills, open drawers, and other obstructions. In workplaces where falling from a height is a hazard, ergonomic principles such as posture, forces, and loads applied should be considered.


Mental Health: Psychological Injuries

In Ontario, psychological injuries are regulated under three areas: freedom from discrimination and duty to accommodate, workplace safety insurance, and occupational health and safety2.

Workplace Violence and Harassment

Under OHSA, it is recognized that workplace violence and workplace harassment may result in psychological injury and that all workplace parties have a duty to reduce these unwanted behaviours. In particular, employers are required to have workplace violence and harassment policies and programs in place and to ensure that all workers are appropriately informed about these policies and programs. Employers are also required to promptly investigate and take action on all harassment and violence claims.

Workplace harassment is defined by “unwelcome words or actions that are known or should be known to be offensive, embarrassing, humiliating or demeaning to a worker or group of workers, in a workplace. It can also include behaviour that intimidates, isolates or even discriminates against the targeted individual(s).”3 Workplace violence is “the exercise of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker” and also includes the threat of physical force.3

Psychosocial Hazards

Employers should also consider other workplace factors that could contribute to psychological injury. While the OHSA is not explicit about employer duties in regards to psychosocial hazards, common law is expanding the definition of harm to include mental harm as well as physical harm. Some psychosocial hazards that have been shown to contribute to mental distress include unreasonable demands/workload, lack of autonomy over work, failure to provide recognition for work and accomplishments, lack of justice, and inadequate resources, among others. Emerging legal cases show that intentional and even reckless causes of psychological harm can make employers liable for mental distress. If workplace factors exist that are negatively affecting the mental health and safety of workers, employers should identify and prevent the harm where they can.


Additional Health and Safety Hazards

In addition to the above concerns, employees and employers should also consider the following to further prevent injury in the workplace:

  • Fire protection – Does the workplace meet safety regulations and fire codes?
  • Emergency procedures – Does the workplace have an evacuation plan? Is a first aid kit available? Are smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors properly maintained?
  • Electrical safety – Are equipment cords and cables in good condition and protected from surges?
  • Chemical and biohazardous materials – Are materials safely stored and labelled, and have all employees been properly trained on how to handle materials?


More Regulations to Consider

In order to comply with OHSA and ensure that your organization is prepared to prevent and reduce health and safety risks, employers must also heed some of the following requirements (note this is not an exhaustive list)4:

  • Supervisors and workers must complete mandatory occupational health and safety awareness training, as well as workplace-specific training on identified hazards
  • Employers must post the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the workplace
  • Employers must post the WSIB’s “In Case of Injury at Work” poster and follow proper procedures in case of injury
  • Depending on the size of your business, workplaces are required to have at least one Health and Safety Representative (6 to 19 workers) or a Joint Health and Safety Committee (over 20 workers)


What Can Employers Do?

  1. Develop policies and procedures for health and safety and ensure they are a) in legal compliance, and b) always followed within your organization.
  2. Develop a health and safety checklist to ensure that all hazards in your workplace and strategies to avoid the hazards are known. Consider the following questions:
    • What are the hazards of the job?
    • Is there any special training needed for the job?
    • Do employees have the right equipment for the job?
    • How often are safety checks being conducted?
    • If employees have any questions about safety, who do they ask?
    • How do employees report injuries?
  3. Arrange for an ergonomic training session for your whole team as a preventative measure or make a referral for an ergonomic assessment to address an employees’ individual needs. 
  4. Reduce psychological injury in the workplace by providing training to managers on how to support employees and create psychologically safe workplaces. Gowan Consulting provides Psychological Safety in the Workplace training and Inclusive Leadership Training. Visit our online store for upcoming training opportunities.


How Can Gowan Consulting Help?

We believe that workplaces should be safe and healthy – physically and psychologically. Our Occupational Therapists can complete a variety of assessments to ensure your work environment is safe, which leads to more productive work. Our ergonomic assessments can determine if employees are at risk for injury on the job. Whether it’s musculoskeletal disorder prevention or education on using tools properly, our Occupational Therapists provide assessments with accurate results and sustainable solutions. We also offer self-paced training to teach participants about a variety of topics, including preventing physical and psychological injury. Have a question about what we can offer your team? Contact us or set up a consultation to develop a customized session or program for your workplace needs.



[1] Ergonomics in the Workplace. (2021, October 4). Retrieved April 19, 2023, from

[2] Mental health in the workplace. (2022, March 31). Retrieved April 19, 2023, from

[3] Understand the law on workplace violence and harassment. (2021, August 19). Retrieved April 19, 2023, from 

[4] Morgan, Elyia. (2023, February 13). OHSA Ontario & Employers Responsibilities. Workplace Safety and Prevention Services. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from 

Additional Resources

Mental injury toolkit. OHCOW. (2021, December 2). Retrieved April 19, 2023, from 

Government of Canada, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. (2023, April 5). Mental health - how to address and support. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from