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Where Workplace Safety in Canada All Began

The Factory Act of 1884 was the catalyst for workplace health and safety in Canada. The British Factory Acts, a set of laws enacted in 1833 with the goal of improving working conditions for industrial employees, served as inspiration. Early efforts in particular focused on improving the working conditions for children

The Canadian Factory Workers' Bill of Rights was passed in 1867 to protect the health and safety of factory workers. At the time, Canada was in the midst of the Second Industrial Revolution, and the labor movement was expanding across the country. The Act only applied to people who worked in factories, not mines or agricultural settings

The Search for Workers Rights

This Act was important in that it suggested prohibitions on the work activities of children and women and suggested work-hour restrictions for all employees, according to the Windsor Occupational Health Information Service (WOHIS). The Act remained a significant piece of Canadian workplace law for a very long time and was only truly updated in 1964 with the Industry Safety Act.

Although not perfect, the Act nonetheless plays a significant role in Canada's history of occupational health and safety and serves as the first step toward a safe and healthy workplace.

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

Many of our articles discuss the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and its standards. However, OSHA materials may not be applicable to you, especially for businesses that operate across North America. If you operate in Canada, your staff should be more familiar with CanOSH and CCOHS.


CanOSH is an occupational safety and health resource, giving Canadians access to information on current laws and services that are offered. Americans may associate the term with a Canadian OSHA; however, that is not CanOSH's function. CanOSH is Canada's largest resource for services and information related to occupational health and safety.

The real Canadian version of OSHA is the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). If CanOSH is a resource for employees and everyone else, CCOHS is a resource for employers.

Understand Your Health and Safety Opportunities

CanOSH is a tool created to provide Canadian health and safety teams quick access to all the information they need. CanOSH makes it simple for Canadians to search jurisdictions for relevant information. The objective was to cut down on the time that Canadians waste looking for dependable occupational safety and health information.

Internal Responsibility System: What Is It?

Every worker, be it an individual or group, has a shared responsibility for health and safety. The internal responsibility system (IRS) establishes a partnership between the employer and employees to guarantee a healthy and safe workplace. In general, it is the duty of employers to uphold rules and regulations that guarantee a secure workplace. The worker's responsibility is to report safety hazards and adhere to safe work practices.


The legislation includes procedures for worker participation in workplace health and safety management. To improve workplace health and safety, employers and employees can collaborate in a health and safety committee.

Labor Laws in Canada

Despite having the second-largest land area in the globe, Canada only has as many people as the entire US state of California. A large portion of employment law is determined on a regional level because there are 17.2 million individuals employed across 10 provinces and three territories. The typical workweek for an employee is either eight hours per day over five days or ten hours a day over four days. Here are the minimum wage and hourly rates of the two most populated provinces:


Minimum Wage (Hourly Rate): $13.10 / $10.45 if gratuities apply

Daily Overtime Rate: No daily overtime +

Weekly Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 40 hours worked in a week


Minimum Wage (Hourly Rate): $14.25 general workers / $12.45 liquor server / $13.40 student under 18

Daily Overtime Rate: No daily overtime +

Weekly Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 44 hours worked in a week

When Was the Occupational Health and Safety Act Passed in Canada?

The British Factory Act from the 17th century served as the inspiration for the original version of the Ontario Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA or The Act). The first OH&S Act was passed by Ontario in 1884. This was also known as the previously mentioned Factory Act.

This act was significant because it suggested limitations on the number of hours that all employees could work and suggested bans on the employment of minors and women. Yet, it was completely unenforceable and had a vague definition. The Factory Act of 1884 did little to safeguard the worker. Employers supported the Act because it appeared to make production safer while not explicitly limiting it.

Five workers tragically died in an accident in 1960, forever altering the public outlook on safety regulations. The Factory Act of 1884 was updated with a new definition of safety. Its name was changed to the Industrial Safety Act of 1964. The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) was adopted in 1978.

The Industrial Safety Act of 1964

The Ontario government was forced to amend the province's health and safety laws in the late 1960s as workers started to openly criticize the absence of safety regulations and workplace revolutions started to take place.

In 1974, uranium miners in Elliot Lake went on strike because of poor working conditions and a high incidence of lung cancer and silicosis. A Royal Commission was established by the government to look at mining health and safety. It took the name "Ham Commission" because of its chairman, Dr. James Ham.

The Ham Commission was formed to examine how best to improve mine health and safety in the United States. Over 100 recommendations were made, which led to the formation of Joint Health & Safety Committees (JHSC). The JHSC was a turning point for workers since they would now have the right to participate in health & safety recommendations.

Three key worker rights are outlined in the Occupational Health & Safety Act:

Labour Day

Since the 1880s, the first Monday in September has been observed as Labour Day in Canada. Canada and the U.S. underwent rapid change in the second half of the 19th century. The impact of the industrial revolution on their economies and labor markets was profound. At that time, the working conditions were appalling, the pay was low, and there was a six-day workweek

The Toronto Printers Union began advocating for a shorter workweek around the same time. The Toronto Printers Union's members were jailed for going on strike in support of a nine-hour workday.

On the Same Page

There are a few conflicting stories on how the U.S. Labor Day began. One theory holds that on September 5, 1882, the Central Labor Union, an association of various New York labor unions, held its first public parade. Another theory is that Peter J. McGuire, vice president of the American Federation of Labor, created Labor Day. He claims to have been inspired by parades honoring the contributions and rights of labor during a trip to Toronto.

Sir John Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister, signed a bill repealing all anti-union legislation. Originally observed in spring, Labour Day in Canada was moved to the fall in 1894 after Prime Minister Sir John Thompson proclaimed it a national holiday.

Federal and Provincial Jurisdiction

The functions of the federal Parliament and provincial legislatures are set out in the Constitution Act of 1867. The federal Parliament is in charge of matters like banking, criminal law, national defense, and citizenship that have an impact on the entire country.

Provincial Law

Provincial legislatures are responsible for matters like education, health care, social welfare, and transportation. These two tiers of government have some areas of concurrent jurisdiction that overlap. Both levels of government can pass laws in some sectors, such as taxation, agriculture, old-age pensions, and resource extraction. The role of federalism and the federal government's power over programs like employment insurance and pensions have been altered through judicial interpretation.

If you are in need of safety training in Canada check out our website or give us a call, we’d love to help.