Workplace health and safety compliance

Employers and employees need to fulfill their roles in preventing workplace accidents and injuries, and promoting safe and healthy workplaces as required in Part II of the Canada Labour Code .

The Labour Program provides services related to the administration and enforcement of Part II of the Code, and works with employers and employees to help fulfill their responsibilities and obligations under the legislation.

Labour Program health and safety officers enforce the Code by conducting inspections and investigations. They also follow a compliance policy to ensure fair and consistent application of the Code in all workplaces.

The Compliance Policy includes a range of tools to achieve compliance such as an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC), directions, and prosecutions.


Part II of the Canada Labour Code is enforced by a series of escalating actions that depend on the seriousness of the violation and the co-operation of the workplace.

Assurance of Voluntary Compliance

The Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC) is typically the first level of enforcement. This is the employer's or employee's written commitment to a Labour Program health and safety officer to correct the contraventions described in the AVC, and to provide a written confirmation of compliance to the health and safety officer by a specific date. However, the AVC is never to be used to correct a situation of danger.


A direction is a formal written order directing the employer or employee to terminate and correct a contravention of the Code within a specified period. A Labour Program health and safety officer must issue a direction if, during an investigation or inspection, the officer determines that a "danger" exists, or if corrective actions specified in a previous AVC have not been completed.

Employers, employees, or trade unions may request an appeal of a direction. However, the request does not act as a "stay" of the direction; this means compliance with the direction must continue until an appeals officer rescinds the direction.

The Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal Canada (formerly the Canada Appeals Office) reviews the appeal and may uphold, rescind or amend the direction.


If a Labour Program health and safety officer determines that a contravention of Part II of the Canada Labour Code has been committed, a prosecution may be initiated with the consent of the Minister.

Prosecutions are typically initiated as a result of serious contraventions or when corrective action, as required by a direction, has not been taken.

For incidents that occurred on or after June 19, 2014, charges must be laid within two years of the date of the incident. For incidents prior to this date, charges had to be laid within one year. The maximum penalties for such offences range from $100,000 to $1,000,000 with a maximum of two years imprisonment.


Appeals may be requested under the following situations.

  1. Employers, employees, and trade unions may appeal a direction given by a Labour Program health and safety officer within 30 calendar days of the date the direction was issued.
  2. An employee, or the employee's designate, may appeal a Labour Program health and safety officer's decision of "no danger" in a refusal to work situation within 10 calendar days of the date the decision was received.

In both cases, the appeal must be made to the Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal Canada. Appeals must be made in writing to the address below.

Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0J2

To simplify the process, you can use the appeals form found on the Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal Canada web site.
For additional information on the appeals process, please see the publication entitled Practice Guide for the Hearing of Appeals.

Labour Program Health and Safety Officer Inspections

Health and safety officers conduct workplace inspections, respond to employee complaints, and investigate accidents. They work with employers, policy and workplace health and safety committees, and representatives to help resolve health and safety issues in the workplace.

Health and safety officers may enter any workplace, at any reasonable time, to conduct an inspection or investigation. An officer will typically request that a health and safety committee member or representative be present during the inspection.

Employers and employees are required to co-operate with the officer at all times and provide the necessary assistance during and after the inspection.

The Labour Program also develops interpretations, policies, and guidelines and operational program directives to ensure that programs are delivered consistently across Canada.

For additional information on compliance policy, please see the following:

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