Keeping up with changing workplace regulations is challenging. Sometimes, those changes are huge, and can’t escape notice. Other times, they’re more subtle, but can still have a huge impact. The upcoming changes brought about by Bill 119 can seem small on the surface, but failing to abide by them can have an enormous impact on your business. Bill 119 governs that independent operators in the Ontario construction industry must have their own Worker’s Safety and Insurance Board coverage as of January 1, 2014. Companies who hire these independent operators also need to be aware of this law as audits ensuring compliance are scheduled to start after the law comes into effect. A WSIB auditor on a site with many non-compliant independent operators will soon turn to the head contractor for explanation and to lay the responsibility. To avoid any fines, work stoppages, or premium back-payments, it’s a good idea for anyone in the construction industry to understand the new regulations, the rules around who needs to have a WSIB account and what happens if an independent operator on your work site fails to have one.
What is a WSIB Clearance Number?
The number is issued by the WSIB to businesses and contractors who are registered with the board and whose accounts are in good standing. To receive a clearance number, the contractor or business must have a current account with the WSIB, must be appropriately classified, must be current on all reporting and remittances, and must be current on all payments. Once these things are verified, the WSIB will issue a clearance number that is valid for a maximum of ninety days.
Who Needs a Clearance Number?
Virtually all Ontario independent operators, contractors, and sub-contractors must have a valid clearance number before beginning work. The number must be maintained throughout the duration of the project. If the project lasts longer than ninety days, the number will need to be renewed. If the number can’t be renewed due to a lapse in the contractor’s account standing, the work being done by this particular contractor must stop until the account is reconciled.
Who’s Responsible for Getting the Number?
While the WSIB clearance number is issued to the independent operator, the hiring party is equally responsible for ensuring that a current clearance number is in place before work begins. The hiring party must ensure that any contractors or sub-contractors have a valid clearance number before allowing them to begin work on any project.
What are the Penalties Involved?
Allowing a contractor without a clearance number to begin work on a project can carry significant direct and indirect penalties. Hiring an Ontario independent operator who doesn’t have a valid clearance number is an offence under Bill 119. Convictions for violating Bill 119 can result in fines of up to $100,000 per offence. If a contractor doesn’t have a clearance number, or if their number lapses, all work involving them must stop—costing you time and resources. If a contractor hasn’t been paying their WSIB premiums, the hiring party can also be held responsible for those costs.
Just One Small Change
As you can see, this one minor change to workplace regulations can have a significant impact on your business. This small change also has layers of complexity that can change who it applies to, and when. Failing to understand these complexities will end up costing your business either way.