Navigating Occupational Health and Safety in Ontario's Hybrid Workplace

*Written by Zura Nakiwoga, Articling Student at Lee Workplace Law

As the landscape of work evolves, hybrid or remote work models are becoming increasingly popular. However, these different workplace models bring forth new challenges in ensuring the safety and well-being of employees. In Ontario, employers must comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the "OHSA"), which requires employers to maintain a safe and secure workplace environment. The question is - how does that apply to remote or hybrid work environments?

In this blog post we cover some of the key health and safety considerations which employers should consider when handling a remote or hybrid workforce.

Legal Framework:

The first thing to consider is whether the OHSA applies to remote workplaces?

The answer is likely yes. OHSA defines a workplace as "any land, premises, location or thing at, upon, in or near which a worker works." This is a broad definition and prima facie covers any place a worker works, whether in office or remote.

It is important to note, however, that there is an exception for work performed in a private home by the owner or occupier of that home. This generates some uncertainty about whether a worker's private home would be considered a "workplace". Given the limited guidance on the exception, we would recommend employers err on the side of caution and assume OHSA applies to their remote workers. This is especially the case if employers do not closely monitor where the remote work is performed, as it may not always fall within the "private home" exemption.

Work-from-Home Safety:

A number of considerations arise when considering how to ensure a safe remote workplace, including ergonomics, physical and mental health, and cyber safety aspects.


Ergonomics is defined as "fitting the job to the worker". It includes designing workstations, equipment, and tools to fit the employee and their individual needs.[1]

To ensure ergonomic needs are met, employers are advised to provide detailed guidelines for home office setups, which emphasize stable work surfaces and proper back support. Employers should discourage soft surfaces and encourage optimized workspaces, which allow for regular movement and consider items such as the correct monitor distance.

In addition to ensuring compliance with OHSA requirements, making sure remote employees have a proper set up may help promote productivity in a remote environment.

Physical Health:

When it comes to remote work, employers should consider liability for injuries which may occur at home.

The limited caselaw suggests that employers will not be responsible for incidents or injuries which occur at home but outside of work hours. For example, in Allard and Promutuel Horizon Ouest, 2023 QCTAT 1027, an employee was injured during her lunch break, outside her home, and while she was fully disconnected from her work shift. As a result, the fall was deemed to be within her "personal" domain of activities, leading to the denial of the claim. It's important to note that this case serves as an example and isn't legally binding in Ontario.

However, this case highlights the importance of delineating personal and work-related activities for remote workers. Employers should establish clear boundaries and guidelines as to what tasks fall within the scope of work, as well as what are considered working hours, to help limit liability for any incidents which occur outside the scope of work.

Additionally, if an employer is aware an employee may be working in a physically unsafe or hazardous remote work environment, the employer should consider what steps it may be able to take to reduce the hazards or risk of injury.

Mental Health:

Employers should also consider the mental health of their remote workers. This may include providing accessible resources, counseling, and stress management workshops, and encouraging a healthy work-life balance, including discouraging after-hours work communications. This may be especially important in a remote or hybrid work setting, as the employee does not "leave the office" in the same way as an in-person worker.

Cyber Safety and Bullying:

Addressing cyber safety concerns is critical. Employers should establish and enforce policies on data access, personal device usage, and communication tools. Cyberbullying, such as unwanted emails and hurtful comments online, also pose a significant risk to individuals' well-being and work performance, especially in a remote workplace, where it may be harder to police. To limit this risk, employers should educate staff, prepare, and enforce policies, promote reporting, offer mental health support, and collaborate with internet service providers for severe cases. Employees can protect themselves by being cautious online, reporting incidents promptly, supporting colleagues, practicing good digital habits, and staying informed about and compliant with organizational policies.

Different Rules for In-Person Workers?:

Yes. While OHSA may apply to both remote and in-person workplaces, different considerations may arise for in-person workplaces.

Physical Health:

In addition to the ergonomic issues we mentioned above, employers should consider the physical set up of their workplace and any health and safety risks it may pose. For an office setting, this may include:

  • Adequate lighting and equipment design to reduce health risks from prolonged computer use.
  • Comfortable and appropriate furniture.
  • Office layout to minimize health risks, improve employee mobility and promote efficient communication.

Regular checks are essential to maintain a safe workspace. If any hazards are identified, they should be remedied promptly.

Workplace Violence and Harassment:

Preventing workplace violence and harassment is crucial. Harassment covers offensive behaviours, while violence includes threats or physical harm. Employers should have clear policies, conduct risk assessments, and provide training to maintain a safe environment. Workers can refuse work if they feel threatened, so employers should ensure unwelcome behaviours are addressed promptly. In the office, visible security measures and policies can be implemented. In-person training sessions can also emphasize respectful behaviour and reporting mechanisms.

Mental Health:

Mental health is equally important in an in-person setting. With increased access to technology, the line between personal and professional life blurs even for in-office workers, which can increase stress and burnout risks. Employers can create a supportive atmosphere in the office through team-building activities, open-door policies, and designated relaxation spaces. Immediate access to colleagues and supervisors facilitates communication, making it easier for employees to seek help if needed.

Best Practices for Remote or Hybrid Workplaces:


To establish a safe remote or hybrid workplace, employers must employ a proactive approach that incorporates various best practices, including:

  • Clear work-from-home policies
  • Risk assessments
  • Providing supportive measures like ergonomic support and mental health initiatives
  • Effective communication, investigations, and legal compliance with health and safety measures


Employees should also do their part and follow safety policies, use required safety equipment, and report hazards or rule violations promptly.


Navigating health and safety in the evolving workplace requires adherence to the OHSA, a supportive company culture, and individual responsibility. By focusing on comprehensive policies, continuous education, and fostering safe environments, both employees and employers can create a workplace where everyone thrives, regardless of their location.Remember, this information provides general guidance and not legal advice. For specific details on occupational health and safety compliance, consult legal experts or relevant authorities.

Remember, this information provides general guidance and not legal advice. For specific details on occupational health and safety compliance, consult legal experts or relevant authorities.

[1] The Fundamentals - Ergonomics -