HEALTH AND SAFETY IN THE WORKPLACE IN CANADA
Katherine Lippel, LLL, LLM, FRSC
Canada Research Chair in Occupational Health and Safety Law and Full Professor,
Law Faculty, Civil Law Section, University of Ottawa
Canada is a federation and the provinces have primary jurisdiction for labour, including
OHS and workers' compensation. The federal government adopts legislation applicable
only to its own employees and to a constitutionally limited number of employers, about
10% of the workforce. Here we will describe the federal legislation and the legislation
of the province of Québec.
Occupational illnesses and injuries are compensated in each province, through state run
public corporations that have exclusive authority to decide. Although there are
substantial similarities between each province, there are also significant differences. The
Federal government has no workers’ compensation scheme, delegating decision making
and rule making to the provinces through the Government Employees Compensation
Act, RSC 1985, c. G-5. Separate organisations implement the provincial legislation,
there is no over-arching authority responsible for workers’ compensation in Canada.
Each provincial law is different and federally regulated employees are compensated
according to the provincial law applicable to their case.
The Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) provides
statistics regarding accepted compensation claims. The most recent data, from 2013, is
reported in the National Work Injury/Disease Statistics Program (NWISP)
lost time injury claims were accepted in Canada that year, as well as 902 accepted
claims for fatalities. Health and social services is the sector with the highest number of
compensated lost time injuries, followed by manufacturing. The statistical reports
provided by this institution show a steady decline in compensated lost time injuries,
falling from an all time high of 602,531 in 1989 to 241,933, the lowest since statistics
were first reported by the AWCBC, in 1982. However fatality claims have not followed
a similar pattern, with the highest number recorded in 2005, 1098 fatalities, and 902
recorded in 2013. The data includes fatalities caused by accident and disease and in
many provinces disease attributable to asbestos exposure accounts for a large number of
compensated fatalities annually. The AWCBC does not provide pan-Canadian statistics
for work injury that does not involve lost time, nor does it separate disease and accident
The author wishes to thank Andrew King for comments on a previous version of this text.
112 http://awcbc.org/?page_id=14#injuries, consulted June 11th 2015.