The first review of the AODA’s Employment Standards became public in 2019. In this review, the AODA Employment Standards Development Committee recommends changes to the existing Employment Standards. In addition, the Committee also identifies barriers that employment-seekers and workers with disabilities face, and recommends strategies to remove these barriers. This article will discuss the Committee’s recommendations for workplace emergency response information and individualized assistance.
Workplace Emergency Response Information and Individualized Assistance
The Employment Standards require employers to provide individualized workplace emergency response information to any employee who needs it. Emergency information is any visual or audio material that explains what workers should do if there is an emergency at the workplace. Examples of emergency information include:
- Posters displayed in prominent locations
- Videos workers watch during training
If an employer knows that a worker needs this information due to their disability, the employer must provide that information in an accessible way as soon as possible. For example, the employer could provide:
- Posters in accessible formats
- Videos with communication supports
This requirement refers to workplace emergency response information that should be available to all workers. While the format a worker receives the information in may differ, the information is the same. In other words, this information is not individualized.
In addition, employers must provide individualized information during emergencies to any employee who needs assistance due to a disability. Most often, this individualized information takes the form of creating and implementing individualized workplace emergency response plans for workers who need them. Employers must consult with workers who need this form of individualized information, comparable to consultation about individualized accommodation plans.
Furthermore, some workers need assistance from colleagues in the event of a workplace emergency. Employers must find co-workers to provide this assistance. With the consent of a worker, the employer must share that worker’s individualized emergency response information with co-workers providing needed emergency support. Finally, employers should review the emergency response information specific to a worker when:
- The worker moves to another workspace
- The employer’s general emergency response procedures change
Two Types of Workplace Emergency Response Information
The current requirement in the Standards refers to two (2) distinct types of workplace emergency response information. The first type is general information that applies to every person in the workplace. As such, this type of information does not need to be individualized. However, employers do need to ensure its accessibility to workers with disabilities. The Committee recommends that this mandate in the Standards should refer only to this type of information. As a result, it should not be called “individualized workplace emergency response information, but simply “workplace emergency response information”.
In contrast, the second type of workplace emergency response information, including plans to assist workers when necessary, is individualized. Moreover, while all workers need access to general emergency information, only some workers will need individualized plans. As a result, the current format of this requirement in the Standards may easily confuse employers. They may falsely believe that every worker with a disability must have an individualized emergency response plan. On the contrary, employers should develop individualized plans only when needed, but make general workplace emergency response information accessible to every worker.
Therefore, to reduce confusion, the Committee recommends that a mandate for individualized assistance during workplace emergencies should be separate from the mandate for workplace emergency response information. For example, the mandate for individualized assistance is comparable to the requirement that employers create and implement plans for other individualized workplace accommodations. As a result, the Committee suggests that, if a worker needs individualized assistance during emergencies, the plan to provide this assistance should be part of their individualized accommodation plan. This separation will help employers more clearly understand and provide both workplace emergency response information and individualized assistance.