OCOT: Enforcement to focus in residential market

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    Bob Onyschuk, the director of the compliance and enforcement division at the Ontario College of Trades updated the Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA)’s board of directors on the activities of his division, COCA reported in its September newsletter.

    Onyschuk reported that few compliance problems have been discovered in the ICI sector, so the OCOT inspectors are now focusing their efforts in the residential environment, and will only make site visits on ICI problems if they hear of serious violations.

    He also reported that Quebec workers cannot be ticketed by the OCOT, and revenue from fines does not go to the OCOT, but local municipalities.

    In his presentation he made the following comments, the newsletter reported:

    • The purpose of the college is to protect the public, promote the trades and set training certification standards;
    • The college currently has 20 enforcement officers and 23 more are in the process of being hired;
    • 37 of the total of 43 enforcement officers have backgrounds in the trades;
    • The OCOT is the only self-regulating college in Ontario that has the power to ticket;
    • Enforcement officers are trained to stay invisible, cause as little disruption as possible, be respectful at all times, that time is money both for contractors and inspectors; they are taught to use considerable discretion when fining people;
    • OCOT enforcement officers have roughly the same powers as a ministry of labour inspector;
    • Tickets and fines, like speeding tickets, can be appealed through the court system;
    • Revenue from tickets and fines goes to the municipality in which the charge was laid, NOT to the OCOT;
    • The focus of enforcement efforts is on the compulsory trades and initially there was a concentration on the ICI side of construction where few problems were found; latterly enforcement in construction has focused on non-ICI; enforcement officers will investigate serious complaints about the ICI sector but in the absence of a serious complaint, will stay away from ICI;
    • So far enforcement officers have made 1,300 visits; considerable time is being spent in residential construction, hair styling and auto body; only 18 tickets have been issued to date;
    • OCOT enforcement officers do not have the power to ticket a worker from Quebec who is working in Ontario;
    • All enforcement officers participate in weekly teleconferences to discuss complaints and share their experiences in the field;
    • Complaints of contractor fraud are investigated and a report is submitted to the complaints committee; if the complaints committee determines the complaint is valid, it is referred to the discipline committee or the fitness to practice committee;
    • COCA directors were fully engaged in a question and answer period that followed Bob’s presentation and the following recommendations were made:
    • Develop a code of conduct for enforcement officers;
    • Create a tip sheet informing contractors of their rights and obligations when their worksites are visited by an OCOT enforcement officer.

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