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What to expect when a Ministry inspector comes to your workplace

There are two types of inspector visits: proactive and reactive.
Workplace Inspection
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When an inspector from the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills Development (MLITSD) arrives at your workplace, how the visit will go depends on why the inspector is there. 

There are two types of inspector visits: proactive and reactive. For proactive visits, the inspector is there to complete an inspection. For reactive visits, the inspector is there to investigate. 


A few scenarios require the MLITSD to come into the workplace to investigate. The one we’re most familiar with is when a fatality or critical injury occurs; however, an inspector also investigates when someone reports a legislative violation and when there is a work refusal. In the case of an incident or if someone reports a contravention, the inspector’s job is to determine if the organization violated health and safety legislation, which includes workplace violence and harassment laws.

The inspector may ask to see relevant documentation—such as maintenance records, policies and procedures, meeting minutes, or training records—as they try to understand what happened. They may also interview employees, take photographs, use or test machinery and equipment, and more.  If enough evidence supports that a company has committed an offence, a prosecution may be initiated by the inspector. 

A prosecution may also be initiated if an order was previously issued by an inspector but hasn’t been addressed or if a notice of compliance was not filed in accordance with the timeline identified in the field visitation report.   The inspector does not give fines. The case will go to a judge and the judge will impose a fine or charges if the company is guilty of a violation.

In the case of a work refusal, the inspector’s job is to determine if the work is likely or not likely to endanger a worker. When an inspector is brought in to deal with a work refusal, it’s because the organization and the employee are at an impasse. They are unable to settle it internally, so a third party needs to investigate and make the decision. 


When an inspector comes to investigate a reported incident, the company knows they will be coming and knows the reason. That’s not the case with a proactive visit. A proactive visit is when an MLITSD inspector comes in to do a workplace inspection, not an investigation. They are there to determine if the company complies with applicable health and safety legislation. They generally don’t give notice that they are coming.

An inspector may choose to visit a workplace proactively for several reasons. It could be because they noticed that the company’s injury rate has increased. Maybe the company’s operation has grown, and they have a significant number of new employees. Or it could be simply because they haven’t visited in a while. If your workplace falls within the Ministry’s current inspection campaign or initiative, that could also trigger a visit.

During proactive visits, inspectors will seek out a worker member of the joint health and safety committee or the health and safety representative to join them as they walk through the facility and complete the inspection. The inspector usually asks to see employee training records, health and safety policies and procedures, and meeting minutes. 


If the inspector finds an area of non-compliance, they will likely issue an order.

  • The most common type of order is a time-bound order. These types of orders may be issued when required policies are not in place or if the inspector finds that a safety meeting hasn’t been held in several months. The inspector will issue the order with a deadline to complete the procedure or the meeting. 
  • Another type of order is a comply-forthwith order, which means the hazard must be fixed right away. For example, if a machine is missing a guard, an inspector may issue a comply-forthwith order, which means they expect the guard to be put in place before they leave the facility.
  • The third type of order is a stop-work order. When issued, similar to comply-forthwith orders, the work cannot continue until the problem is fixed. However, with a stop-work order, the problem is likely not something that can be fixed immediately. For example, if there is no fall protection in place for a worker who is working on an elevated platform fixing equipment, workers cannot use or repair the equipment until the proper fall protection is in place.  The inspector must come back and review before the stop work order can be released. 

Do not panic when an inspector arrives. Regardless of what brought them to your workplace, they are there to work with you to ensure everyone is safe. Use it as an opportunity to learn and improve.

Additional Resources

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Have health and safety questions? Please contact Denise Lam, WSPS Account Manager, Small Business at [email protected].

The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.

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