Health and Safety

Safety (and Accessibility) First: How Accessibility and Health and Safety Intersect

February 26, 2020

HR has a lot of responsibilities in the workplace, and sometimes they feel like one huge interconnected task. Everything affects everything else, and this is particularly true of the relationship between accessibility and health and safety. In both domains, employers bear enormous responsibility for ensuring compliance and anticipating employee needs.

Health and safety legislation across Canada already requires employers to do everything reasonable under the circumstances to protect workers and prevent injuries. Increasingly, jurisdictions are passing laws requiring similarly thorough efforts to remove barriers to access for persons with disabilities. Ontario and Manitoba have already enacted accessibility standards related to employment, and other provinces and the federal government have taken steps towards establishing comprehensive regulations of their own

Persons with disabilities may face barriers in the built environment of a workplace, or find that equipment and tools are not suited to their needs. While employees should engage in good-faith efforts throughout any accommodation process, including disclosing their needs to their employers, employers themselves bear the most responsibility for ensuring that all employees are safe and healthy at work, and for making every reasonable effort to identify hazards, assess them, and eliminate or mitigate the associated risk of harm.

This responsibility extends to the whole of an employer’s health and safety program, including training, posted information, warning labels and signs, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Employees with disabilities have the right to be safe at work, and to know about the hazards associated with their jobs; employers are responsible for upholding this right. Download our Health and Safety Accessibility Guide for guidance on how to keep accessibility concerns at the forefront of your health and safety program.

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