Health and safety inspections in the workplace: how to appeal against a decision

Read about the process of health and safety inspections in the workplace. Are the inspectors' decisions final or can you file an appeal? Find out what your options are
Health and safety inspections in the workplace: how to appeal against a decision

Part of the enforcement of the different labour laws and regulations is the conduct of health and safety inspections in the workplace. When unfavorable decisions are made based on these inspections, appeals may be resorted to by any aggrieved party.

What are health and safety inspections in the workplace in Canada?

Health and safety inspections in the workplace ensure that employers comply with standards on workplace health and safety. It is required by Canada’s labour and employment laws so that:

  • workplace hazards are proactively addressed
  • workplace accidents, injuries, and illnesses are fairly investigated

Learn more about the procedures for work refusals in Canadian law due to a workplace hazard that employees and employers must follow.

Laws governing workplace inspections

The laws on workplace inspections are found in the different occupational health and safety laws in Canada.

Employers and their employees may be covered by different laws, depending on the nature of their workplace.

In general, federal governments’ workplaces and their employees are covered by federal laws, while private businesses are covered by provincial laws.

Federal laws:

Provincial laws:

Other provinces in Canada also have similar legislations regulating health and safety in the workplace.

Two types of inspections

There are two types of health and safety inspections in the workplace. It largely depends on the law that requires these inspections. The law also sets out who conducts the inspections.

Workplace inspections by the employer/committee

Internal workplace inspections are conducted by the workplace health and safety committees. These committees must be established by every employer when a certain number of employees is reached.

When federal regulated workplaces have 20 or more employees, the committee must be established by the employer.

For any other workplaces, it would depend on the provincial occupational law on health and safety. It would usually still be 20 or more employees.

Among the powers and duties of these workplace health and safety committees are:

  • addressing health and safety complaints by employees
  • conducting internal health and safety inspections in the workplace
  • cooperating with inspections by health and safety officers from government regulators

These committees are empowered and are required to conduct the following:

routine inspections/investigations:

  • to identify and record any existing workplace health and safety hazards
  • to recommend any corrective action that will address these existing hazards
  • to monitor the effectiveness of any workplace policy or standard regarding hazards

preliminary inspections/investigations:

  • to determine the cause of any incident or accident which happened due to a workplace hazard
  • to propose any corrective action for implementation by the employer

Employers and committees who fail to conduct such inspections or investigations may be imposed with certain fines and penalties, according to the applicable law.

Workplace inspections by a government regulator

Each workplace health and safety law or legislation – both at the federal and provincial levels – empowers a certain government regulator to conduct health and safety inspections in the workplace.

The goals of these inspections, when conducted by a government regulator, are:

  • to determine whether there has been fault or negligence on whose part
  • to look for any evidence that may implicate any wrong on any party involved
  • to address any workplace hazards, so that any future incident will be prevented

There are two types of inspections that the health and safety inspectors or officers from the government may conduct:

  • proactive inspections: to ensure that employers and employees comply and implement the standards under the appropriate law or regulation
  • reactive inspections: to address any workplace incident, such as injuries, illnesses, or death; or to respond to any complaint regarding a workplace hazard

Watch this video to know more about how health and safety inspections in the workplace are conducted by the Labour Program inspector:

For a short backgrounder on this topic, read our recent article on what you need to know about occupational health and safety at work.

What happens after a health and safety inspection?

After health and safety inspections in the workplace are conducted, the health and safety officer or inspector will provide any recommendation, order, ticket, or decision. The employer or any aggrieved party may appeal the decision.

When filing an appeal, we recommend consulting with a lawyer for occupational health and safety to ensure compliance with the appeal process. You can contact a lawyer in your province or territory. Employers in Ottawa or Toronto can contact a lawyer for occupational health and safety in Ontario as ranked by Lexpert.

Compliance orders or recommendations

The content of a compliance order, ticket, or recommendation will depend on the law that applies to the employer and the workplace.

For example, under the Canada Labour Code, the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC) is issued when the Labour Program officer finds violations regarding health and safety in a workplace environment. However, to correct a danger in the workplace, or if the AVC was not complied with, a Direction will be issued by the Labour Program officer to terminate and correct such dangers.


When any of these recommendations, decisions, or orders by the health and safety officer have not been complied with, either deliberately or negligently, a formal charge before the court may be filed against the employer or any party concerned.


An employer, employee, or union can appeal against any order issued by the government.

At this point, consulting with a lawyer is appropriate, since appeals may include hearings.

An appeal will not prevent the implementation of the order or recommendation unless a stay is officially granted or if the order is cancelled.

Canada Labour Code

Appeals may be filed with the Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal within these time frames:

  • 10 calendar days from the receipt of the decision: when appealing a decision of “no danger” in a refusal to work situation; or
  • 30 calendar days from the issuance of the decision: when appealing a Direction by the Labour Program officer.

Provincial occupational and health safety laws

Decisions or orders by a provincial government’s labour program or agency may also be appealed. The specific process would depend on the occupational and health safety laws of that province.

For instance, in Ontario, the inspecting officer from the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development may issue the following orders:

  • Compliance order: to address any violations under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act; or
  • “Stop work” order: to address an immediate risk of a workplace hazard and to stop any work until that hazard has been addressed.

These orders by the inspecting officer may be appealed to the Ontario Labour Relations Board within 30 days from its issuance.

Review of the appeal’s decision

When the appeal’s decision is still not favorable to any of the parties, they may now apply for a judicial review before the regular courts. Here, the services of a lawyer are required to represent the appealing party before the court.

Learn more about appealing the results of health and safety inspections in the workplace by hiring the Lexpert-ranked best lawyers for occupational health and safety in Canada.