Archive for the ‘Ministry of Labour’ Category

General Motors of Canada Fined for Plant Worker Death

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

JusticeLast week, General Motors of Canada pleaded guilty in an Ontario court to violating several provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), and were $160,000, for an incident in which a 2,000-pound lift table fell on a worker and crushed him.

The incident that led to the charges occurred on December 17, 2012 at GM’s plant in Oshawa. One worker was explaining a task to a co-worker, regarding the automatic guided vehicle (AGV) repair crib. The first worker explained the preliminary steps for the task, including the removal of screws from a ball screw assembly, when he was called away. While he was away, the co-worker removed all of the screws except one.

Upon returning to the scene, the first worker began to show his co-worker how to retract the ball screw while he was sitting on top of the AGV’s frame, with the lift table raised above, when the lift table and a pallet used to hold the car frame suddenly fell on top of him.  Immediately, other workers at the plant rushed in use pry bars to raise the lift table off the worker. Soon after, the worker was transported to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where he was treated for injuries that included broken bones.

 The Ontario Ministry of Labour investigated the incident, and found there was no blocking material in place between the lift table and the AGV to prevent it from falling. Also, Ministry engineers determined that the lift table collapsed because the assembly’s only remaining screw failed. Though workers had implemented a safety bar designed to hold the lift table’s weight, it has slipped out of place and the last screw was not strong enough to hold up the lift table, and it fell on the worker.

GM of Canada pleaded guilty to the charge of failing as an employer to ensure that the measures and procedures prescribed in Section 74 of Ontario Regulation 851/90 were carried out in the workplace. That OHSA regulation states that “machinery, equipment or material that is temporarily elevated and under which a worker may pass or work shall be securely and solidly blocked to prevent the machinery, equipment or material from falling or moving.”

The $160,000 fine was ordered by Justice of the Peace Mathilda Lewis in Whitby court. She also added the 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge required by the Provincial Offences Act, which brings the total hit to the company’s bottom line to $200,000. Creating a safety culture in a workplace doesn’t cost a company, it pays.

WorkSafeBC Encouraging Protection of Workers in the Cold

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Extreme ColdWorkSafeBC is trying hard to remind employers and workers that working in the cold is a potential hazard, and that precautions should be taken this time of year.

They have reason to be concerned. Between 2009 and 2013, 87 British Columbia workers were injured because of what is called “cold stress.” Among the most common types of cold stress include hypothermia, trenchfoot, Raynaud’s Disorder, and even frostnip and frostbite. The agency is stressing that extreme cold should raise serious health and safety concerns among employers. Every time temperatures are expected to drop significantly, employers should perform a risk assessment and develop and implement a cold exposure plan to prevent injuries.

Such a cold exposure plan should take into account what each employee is doing and where, what conditions they will be exposed to and for how long. They should then take whatever steps are necessary to reduce the health hazard, which could include putting up wind barriers or placing space heaters at key locations at the site. Employers and workers should also evaluate and address ice and slipping hazards.

WorkSafeBC is also recommending many other actions employers can take to reduce the risk. Among them include:

  • Encourage workers to be well rested, because fatigue creates extra risk for workers.
  • Encourage workers to stay hydrated. But get them to do so with water and stay away from coffee and tea as much as possible.
  • Encourage workers to cover as much skin as possible to limit exposure, and to layer clothing to trap heat and allow sweat to escape. Also, keep clothing dry.
  • Wear gloves when touching metal.
  • Provide workers with warm dry areas, and encourage them to take frequent breaks, especially if the work they are doing is difficult.
  • Keep up with weather reports and make adjustments as needed.

Employers and workers all should understand the danger signs of excessive exposure and monitor workers to keep them safe. Among the warning signs of excessive exposure can include excessive shivering, slurred speech, confusion, slower than usual breathing and heart rates, numbness or even a loss of consciousness. Their skin may also develop white patches or take on a gray pallor, or may start to harden. If any of these symptoms appear, get them to a warm, dry place and take their temperature. If it is 96.8 degrees or lower, you may have a problem.

WorkSafeBC has a page at their website, Exposures — Physical Exposures if you would like more information.

Expanded Definition of “Worker” in Ontario

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Expanded definition of workerWhen the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014 came into effect in Ontario last November, the definition of “worker” under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) became far more broad, and made Ontario’s definition more consistent with the definition used across Canada. Employers must know this definition if they’re going to comply with the regulations and avoid huge penalties.

Under the OHSA in previous years, only those employees who performed work or a service for pay were defined as “workers.” What that meant was, those who were not paid were not covered under the OHSA. However, with the new definition of “worker” the OHSA applies to additional workers, such as these:

  • Those employees who performs work or supplies services for pay or other compensation.
  • A student, whether in a secondary school or college, who works or provides services for no pay or other compensation, if it’s part of an authorized work experience program approved by a school board or any program approved by any post-secondary institution, such as a college or university.
  • Someone who receives training from an employer, but who is not an “employee,” as defined by the Employment Standards Act (ESA), but who meets certain conditions.
  • Any other person who works or provides services to an employer for no pay or other compensation.

Under this expanded definition, all workers, whether they are paid or unpaid, are entitled to the same rights under the OHSA. It also makes all workers responsible for knowing their duties under the OHSA. It also means all workers, whether paid or not, are entitled to be properly trained, informed and supervised in a way that protects their health and safety.

This expanded definition is not exclusive to Ontario; some form of this definition has been in place for some time in most other provinces. But no matter where your main business is located, ensuring that all workers, whether they’re paid or not, receive the same treatment and the same protection in the workplace. Training workers and making them aware of workplace hazards is a prudent move for any employer, and will prevent your workers, your reputation and your bottom line.

Company Fined $325k for Lack of Safety Processes, Training

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Electric_plantIt seems clear that the courts are intent on imposing higher penalties against employers who violate the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 2015. One example is the $325,000 fine assessed last week against Hydro One Networks Inc. The fine came after the company pleaded guilty for an incident in which a worker was killed as he moved power equipment at the company’s Hinchinbrooke Distribution Station in Central Frontenac Township.

The incident happened on March 5, 2013. A five-worker crew was in the process of replacing a voltage regulator. The regulator’s location was such that steel beams were overhead, so it had to be moved laterally. That meant it couldn’t be moved with a crane alone, so the crew used what is called a “jack and roll” method, in which the regulator was moved using wooden rollers.

The regulator to be replaced was removed without incident. However, the 15-ton replacement regulator was being moved into place using a concrete pad moving across wooden planking. The rollers wouldn’t fit properly beneath the regulator, so they stopped moving it while a worker put wooden blocking in place and mounted a jack, to raise the regulator high enough to re-position the rollers and resume movement. Unfortunately, not long after, the regulator tipped forward and crushed the worker. While the four co-workers were able to move the edge of the regulator enough to get the injured worker out of the way, the worker died from his injuries not long after.

The Ministry of Labour investigation that followed discovered that the company had no written procedure for the jack-and-roll process, and that jack-and-roll procedures using stabilizing measures and equipment and that prevented uncontrolled forward movements had not been used in this case, and the jack’s location created a hazard for the worker should the regulator move forward.

Hydro One Networks Inc. pleaded guilty for their failure, as an employer, to ensure that materials or equipment at a project be stored and moved in a manner that does not endanger a worker, which is a violation of Ontario Regulation 213/91 (the Construction Projects Regulation) and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The $325,000 fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace Jack Chiang in the Provincial Offences Court in Kingston on January 13, 2015. In addition to the fine, the court imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That’s a total hit of $406,250 to that company’s bottom line, simply for not developing and implementing a procedure that might have saved a worker’s life.

Company Directors Jailed for OHS Violations

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Company Directors JailedTwo company directors for furniture importer New Mex Canada Inc. were sentenced to 25 days in jail after they pleaded guilty to Occupatonal Health and Safety Act violations that led to a warehouse worker’s death.

The accident in question occurred on Jan. 18, 2013, when a worker was using an “order picker,” which is a combination of a forklift and an operator-up platform, to move merchandise around the company’s Brampton, Ontario warehouse. The order picker, which had been modified, featured a second platform that had not been equipped with a guard rail. Not only that, but the worker was not wearing safety shoes and he was not equipped with fall protection.

At some point, the worker was found on the floor, and was soon pronounced dead of blunt force trauma to the head.

An Ontario Ministry of Labour investigation followed, and they found multiple violations of Ontario’s OHSA, as well as Ontario Regulation 851, which covers industrial workplaces. As a result, New Mex Canada was charged with failure to provide proper training and supervision to a worker regarding fall protection and/or working from height, as well as their failure as an employer to ensure that safety measures required by law were carried out. After pleading guilty to the charges, the company was fined $250,000 by the court, which also added the 25 per cent victim fine surcharge, as required by law. That makes the total cost to the company is $312,500.

In addition to the large fine, the two directors, Baldev Pura and Rajinder Saini, were charged with failing as directors of the company to take reasonable care that the corporation complied with the OHSA and Regulation 851. In pleading guilty to the charges, they were sentenced to 25 days in jail. The sentence will be served on weekends, but both were also ordered to take a health and safety course within the next 60 days.

Study: Ontario Workplace Injury Rates Sliding Downward

Monday, January 12th, 2015

health & safety OntarioAccording to a recently released study, it is clear that the measures taken by the Ontario Ministry of Labour to improve and protect the health and safety of workers throughout the province are  seem to be working. Researchers’ analyzed provincial statistics and found that work-related injury rates in the province fell by about 30 per cent during the eight year period from 2004 to 2011. During the same period, however, non-work injury rates saw no change, indicating that measures the Ministry has taken to improve worker safety are having a positive effect.

There was an overall decline in the total number of injuries throughout Ontario during the study period, but virtually all of the decline is attributable to the significant decline in the number of on-the-job injuries. In fact, if non-work related injuries, such as those suffered during leisure activities like boating and driving for pleasure, had fallen as much as work-related injuries, the province would have seen an overall drop of 200,000 injuries overall by 2011.

The authors of the study made a point to note that all injuries are absolutely preventable, and that a 30 per cent decline in work-related injuries proves that efforts undertaken to prevent injuries really do work. They note that injury is the leading cause of death for Canadians under 45, and that injuries represent 10 per cent of the economic burden of illness throughout Canada, a number that is roughly the same as heart disease or cancer.

If you can see the value of research into preventing heart disease or cancer, surely you can see the benefit of preventing workplace injuries and illness. A healthy workplace benefits everyone.

Ontario Temporary Worker Blitz

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

Ministry of LabourTo start the new year, throughout the months of January and February the Ontario Ministry of Labour will be conducting a blitz designed to protect vulnerable temporary workers.

During the blitz, Ministry inspectors will be proactively inspecting temporary help agencies. They will primarily be there to focus on violations of the Employment Standards Act (ESA), but they also plan to look at potential violations of other workplace standards, including the Occupation Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

According to the Ministry, temporary help agencies introduce workers to the workforce, and they do fill a critical need for companies and the overall economy, but they also represent a significant risk to workers for exploitation. The purpose of this blitz will be to educate everyone, including workers and agencies, as to their rights, responsibilities and duties in the workplace. They will also attempt to ensure that all such workers are being treated fairly.

More than 700,000 workers in Ontario work in temporary jobs, and most are employed by a temporary help agency. Those workers have virtually the same rights under the ESA and OHSA as every other worker in the province. They also have several other rights, thanks to the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Temporary Help Agencies), which was passed in 2009. Among these are the right to not be prevented from direct hire by their employers, the right to any and all information about their assignments, including job descriptions. The new Bill 18, which received Royal Assent on Nov. 20, 2014, also establishes joint liability between temporary help agencies and their clients, which makes both responsible for each worker.

Ontario Company Fined for Machine OHS Violations

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Rock testing machineAn Ontario company that provides inspection and certification services to other companies, SGS Canada Inc., has pleaded guilty to violations of the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act for an incident in which one of their workers lost part of a finger in a machine. As a result, they have been fined $55,000.

The incident that led to the fine occurred on Feb. 11, 2013, when a worker at the company’s Lakefield laboratory facility was operating a drop weight tester machine, which is used to test and characterize various rock samples, by dropping a steel weight onto the sample from various heights.

At the time of the accident, the worker was brushing away rock fragments from a previous test, when the cable that was being used to support the test weight of 50 kilograms broke, dropping the weight approximately one metre onto his finger. The weight caused cuts and bruising, and amputated a portion of his finger.

According to an Ontario Ministry of Labour’s engineering report, the cable supporting the weight had failed due to mechanical damage that was caused by the cable repeatedly moving over the sharp edge of the keeper under load. The report noted that the wire rope should undergo regular inspection and maintenance to ensure that it was in proper working condition. However, such actiivity was not being performed.

SGS Canada Inc. pleaded guilty to its failure, as an employer, to ensure that the drop weight tester machine was maintained in good condition, as required by the OHS Act. As a result, they were fined $55,000 by Justice of the Peace Peter J. Hiscox in Provincial Offences Court in Peterborough On Dec. 22, 2014. In addition to the fine, a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge was added, as required the Provincial Offences Act.

That means a company has suffered a hit of $68,750 to its bottom line because it didn’t take a few minutes out of each and every workday to inspect the equipment workers were using. This demonstrates once again that creating a safer workplace doesn’t cost your company, it pays.

Saskatchewan Utility Worker Electrocuted

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Saskatchewan Utility Worker ElectrocutedIn Saskatchewan, a 45-year-old SaskPower utility worker was killed as he worked on a high-voltage power line on Saturday, December 20 and was electrocuted as a result. The incident occurred just outside Wakaw, a town just northeast of Saskatoon.

According to RCMP, a SaskPower crew was restoring power to the line at about 9:30 p.m. local time. So far, few details have been released by either the company or RCMP, except to say that the worker had been severely injured by the high voltage current in the line. He was then transported to hospital in nearby Rosthern, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

A press release issued the next day by SaskPower simply confirmed the worker’s death and expressed their condolences to the worker’s family. A later press release the following Monday also attempted to remind the public how important safety is to the company, especially when it comes to jobs working with electricity. They noted how their work crews are well-trained and know well the hazards of working around electricity

Officers with WorkSafe Saskatchewan arrived at the site of the incident Sunday to investigate and they continue to do so. There are still very few specific details known.


Ontario MOL Moves Forward With Workplace Safety Strategy

Friday, December 26th, 2014

Fall SafetyThe Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) has revealed a significant update to its integrated occupational health and safety strategy, and many of the included initiatives will impact the construction industry. The update includes new initiatives for training workers at heights, as well as more advanced training for entry-level workers, and certification for joint health and safety committees.

The reveal was made to a room packed with construction industry professionals at Construct Canada earlier this month. The integrated health and safety strategy was first released in December 2013, and featured initiatives designed to prevent injuries and fatalities over a period of three to five years. This is the first major update to the strategy.

The updated plan includes several initiatives to bring greater awareness of the hazards associated with working at heights of three metres or more. Workers who are toiling at such a height will now be required to wear a harness, and they will be required to undergo training with an approved program from an approved provider. The program they propose will be divided into two parts, with Part 1 being three hours on basic theory, followed by Part 2, which will be three and a half hours of practical training on equipment.

This initiative is a key recommendation made by the Expert Panel on Occupational Health and Safety, which was created as a response to the Christmas Eve 2009 scaffolding tragedy, in which four construction workers fell 13 storeys to their deaths as they were renovating a Toronto apartment complex.

In addition to the working at heights training, the MOL will be implementing mandatory entry-level health and safety training for all construction workers. The intent is to create a baseline training knowledge for anyone who works in the industry.

The MOL also announced that several focus groups are in place to discuss the status of a new standard for Joint Health and Safety Committee Certification. They noted that the single-most important proposed change to be formalized so far is that certified members must be trained in a minimum of six hazards per sector. They also intend to implement a transferability provision, so that  a member who is certified at one construction company will still be considered certified if they move to another.