Small Businesses with 2 to 5 workers

Now that you are an employer, you are responsible for protecting your workers from occupational health and safety hazards. The information below is intended to be a guide. All employers must know and understand the occupational health and safety laws that govern their work. To ensure that you are compliant, review the Occupational Health and Safety Act and related regulations.


Health and Safety Laws

It's important to know and understand Ontario's health and safety laws before you and your workers start work. The Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD) enforces the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and related regulations in Ontario. This legislation is designed to protect workers and employers and to help ensure that everyone goes home safely at the end of the day.

Check out the Occupational Health and Safety Act web page and become familiar with the laws that relate to the type of work you do.


Training Requirements

Once you have a few people working for you, it may be time to designate someone a supervisor. This is especially important if you, the employer, are not always at the jobsite with your workers. Supervisors need training to ensure that they know their roles and responsibilities and will be prepared for the job.

Regulation 279/13: Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training under the OHSA requires an employer to ensure that all workers and supervisors complete a basic occupational health and safety awareness training program. The MLITSD offers two free courses to satisfy this requirement. They can be completed by downloading a workbook and employer guide or by following the eLearning module:


While these courses will satisfy the minimum legal requirements, employers may wish to provide more comprehensive training to protect their employees:

In addition to basic awareness training, employers, supervisors, and workers may require more specific training depending on the type of work they do and the type of hazards they may face. For example, construction workers who may use a method of fall protection must complete an approved Working at Heights training course (O. Reg. 279/13, s.7).

To see what type of training you need, review IHSA’s Training Requirements Chart (W001). If your company operates under federal legislation, review IHSA's CLC Training Requirements Chart (W008).

Once you've determined the training you and your workers need to be compliant with Ontario's laws, visit IHSA's Training page to register for courses. IHSA offers hundreds of training programs across the province, so you're sure to find what you need.



If you work with hazardous material, you need to complete training in the Workplace Hazardous Material Information System (WHMIS). IHSA offers this course in a classroom setting or online.


Workplace Violence and Harassment

Although it's not required by the OHSA unless you have more than five workers, it's good practice to have a written workplace violence and harassment policy (OHSA, s.32.0.1) and a program to implement it. IHSA offers an eLearning training course, Workplace Violence and Harassment: What Employers Should Know, which can help you develop your policy and program.


Health and Safety Policy and Program

Although it's not required by the OHSA unless you have more than five workers, it's good practice to have a written health and safety policy and a program to implement that policy (OHSA, s.25(2)(j)). Visit IHSA's Policy and Program Templates page for step-by-step instructions on developing an effective policy and program for your business.


Standard Operating Procedures

As part of your health and safety program, it is important to develop standard operating procedures (SOPs). These are written documents that provide detailed explanations of how a policy or a task will be implemented. To be effective, SOPs must communicate information such as who will perform a task, how it will be preformed, what materials are necessary, where the task will take place, etc. As the employer, it is your responsibility to develop SOPs and communicate them to your workers.

By definition, SOPs are not generic. They depend on the nature of your work and on the equipment you use. They are also specific to your workplace or jobsite. With a good SOP, anyone who is qualified to do the work should be able to follow the step-by-step instructions and complete the task. The SOP provides structure and direction to help make sure that you get consistent results.

For sample SOPs that you can customize to suit your needs, visit IHSA’s Safe Work Practices/Safe Job Procedures web page.


Best Practices

Check out IHSA's Eight Best Practices for Independent Operators and Small Businesses.


Occupational Health

While it’s important to prevent workplace injuries and fatalities, it’s just as important to reduce the likelihood of workers developing occupational diseases, disorders, and illnesses. However, this is often overlooked. Don’t forget to visit IHSA's Occupational Health page, which hosts a wealth of resources related to preventing exposure to biological, chemical, and physical hazards.