July 15, 2015
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) defines a supervisor as a person who has charge of a workplace or authority over a worker.

This broad definition can apply to many different people in a workplace, including people in management, on the shop floor, in a bargaining unit, and individuals whose job title does not include the word ‘supervisor.’

The definition of supervisor has two separate parts. Having either charge of a workplace, or authority over a worker, is sufficient for a person to be a supervisor. In general, “charge of a workplace” refers to broad control over the planning of work and how it is carried out, while “authority over a worker” can be seen as a more specific power to ensure a worker’s compliance with directions.

The Ministry of Labour has prepared to clarify the duties and responsibilities of a supervisor, as defined in the OHSA, and to guide workplace parties (employers, supervisors and workers) and the Ministry when assessing which individuals in the workplace are supervisors under the Act. Workplace parties may wish to obtain legal advice regarding a specific situation in their workplace.

The specific duties of a supervisor under section 27 of the OHSA are:
  • make sure that workers work in compliance with the OHSA and its regulations
  • make sure that workers use any equipment, protective devices or clothing the employer requires
  • tell workers about any workplace health and safety hazards
  • give workers written instructions on measures and procedures to be followed for their own protection, if prescribed by regulation
  • take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers.

The OHSA gives employers and workers duties that help support the role of the supervisor. When appointing a supervisor, the employer must ensure the person is competent. To be competent, a supervisor must have enough knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and how it is to be performed. He or she must also be familiar with the OHSA and any regulations under it that apply to the workplace, and, know about any actual or potential health and safety hazards in the workplace.

More information about the different duties of the employer, supervisor and worker can be found in the Ministry of Labour’s Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act at labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pubs/index.php.