Archive for the ‘Ministry of Labour’ Category

Company Blames Victims for Accident

Monday, July 25th, 2016

WarningIn the wake of a January explosion at Nexen Energy’s Long Lake oilsands facility in Alberta, the company is attempting to place at least some of the blame for the fatal accident on the workers – Dave Williams, 30, and Drew Foster, 52 – who were fatally injured in the blast. As one can imagine, the families of the deceased workers are calling that move a “disgrace.”

According to some officials at Nexen, the company’s investigation, which Nexen officials described as “extensive,” found that the explosion had been caused by some workers doing work they weren’t supposed to be doing. In a statement, the company said, “Our investigation indicates that the incident was a result of work being performed outside the scope of approved work activities.”

Beyond that statement, the company, which is a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned CNOOC Ltd., refused to comment any further on the incident, since Alberta Occupational Health and Safety is still conducting their own investigation.

To make matters worse, the damage done by the explosion is expected to result in 350 plant worker layoffs. Nexen determined that there was no short-term fix to the damage, so they idled the upgrader portion of the Long Lake facility indefinitely, which means no workers are needed there.

The brother of one blast victim, Archie Williams, once worked at the same plant from 2008-2014, calls it a “disgrace” that his brother may be remembered as  responsible for the accident. He also noted that, on the day of the explosion, Dave Williams had been assigned to the hydrocracker unit while on an overtime shift, which was not his usual position. He usually worked at the water treatment plant. In addition, Williams noted that he doesn’t believe his brother could have caused the explosion because his body was found at the facility entrance, far away from where the explosion occurred, with no broken bones and  burns only to the front of his body.

Ontario Company Fined For Hand Injury

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

lockoutA Kitchener, Ontario cracker manufacturer, BFG Canada Ltd., pleaded guilty recently and was fined $110,000 for an incident that occurred on Dec. 5, 2014, in which a worker’s hand was pulled into a machine, causing him to suffer permanent injuries.

The incident occurred at the company’s Kitchener manufacturing facility, which included an incline conveyor system that is used to cool the crackers after baking and move them through the processing line. The conveyor system was driven by a powered roller that was about two metres wide and which rotated counter-clockwise in  order to pull the conveyor belt forward. One centimetre from that powered roller was an additional roller that rotated in the opposite direction to guide the belt, which created a pinch point.

The day of the accident, the powered roller had been slipping and was unable to move the conveyor belt forward, so a worker was instructed by a BFG supervisor to troubleshoot and repair the problem. Without disabling the machine, the worker saw a piece of grip tape that had been sticking out from the edge of the powered roller,  about a foot from the pinch point, and when he tried to grab the grip tape to tear it off the roller, his hand was pulled into the pinch point, injuring him.

Soon after the accident, the worker was able to shut off the machine, but it took emergency personnel almost 40 minutes to free him from the machine completely. Soon after, he was transported to hospital, where he was treated for serious injuries. He now suffers permanent restrictions as a result.

After a thorough investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, the company was charged with failing to ensure a guard or other device was in place on the conveyor system to protect a worker from an in-running nip hazard as required by Section 25 of the Industrial Establishments Regulation, which was a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. After pleading guilty, BFG Canada Ltd. was then fined $110,000 by Justice of the Peace Adriana Magoulas, who also imposed the 25 per-cent victim fine surcharge, making the total hit against the company $137,500, simply because it had not trained workers to lock out conveyors before trying to troubleshoot problems.

Not Signaling Truck Brings $100,000 Fine

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

transporttruckLast week, Mississaugua-based Dream Party Décor, which sets up decorations and amenities for celebrations at rental halls, pleaded guilty to occupational health and safety violations and fined $100,000 for an incident in which a temporary worker was struck by a truck while working on a loading dock.

The incident occurred on March 22, 2014, when the temporary worker was working with a team of other workers in the process of preparing to unload a truck at the loading dock, which was located at the main company facility at 1415 Bonhill Road in Mississaugua. According to the report from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, the driver of the truck did not have a clear and unobstructed view of the area behind the truck as he backed toward the loading dock, but there was no signal person present to guide the driver into place. When the truck was put into reverse, it struck the worker and pinned him between the truck and the edge of the loading dock. The impact caused the worker to suffer fatal injuries.

After a thorough investigation by the Ministry of Labour, Dream Party Decor was charged with failure to comply with section 56 of the Industrial Establishments Regulation, which requires the presence of a signal person when the vehicle operator does not have a clear view of the vehicle’s path while reversing.

After the company pleaded guilty to the charge, Justice of the Peace V. Albert Chang Alloy  assessed the $100,000 fine, as well as a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means failing to signal a truck driver to a safe place cost this company $125,000 total. Another example showing that worker safety doesn’t cost companies, it pays.

WorkSafeBC Warns Homeowners

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

moneyWe’re in the middle of the busy season when it comes to home and condo renovations, so last week, WorkSafeBC  sent out an advisory, in which they encouraged homeowners to check out any contractor they hire to make sure they have registered for workers’ compensation coverage.

This is wise advice. Regardless of the work they do, whether it’s a home addition, a renovation, or even just landscaping, painting and the like,  if a worker suffers an injury while working on the homeowner’s premises and the contractor is either not registered for workplace insurance or is not up-to-date with their payments to WorkSafeBC, the cost of the injury could land on the homeowner, making them  liable for insurance premiums owed in connection with the work or service being performed on their behalf.

WorkSafeBC has made this information exceptionally easy for homeowners to access, so it is always possible for homeowners to find out the current status of a contractor’s insurance. They can request clearance letters online for free, 24/7 by filling out an application form on www.worksafebc.com, whether on a computer, tablet or a mobile phone, or they can call WorkSafeBC, as well. While the letter indicates whether the contractor is up-to-date with regard to their insurance premiums, it does not rate the contractor’s health and safety record, nor does it recommend or endorse any contractor with regard to the quality of their work. Still, the information could save the homeowner a lot if a worker is injured while the contractor is working on their home.

Canada Implements New OHS Regs

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

GHSThe Government of Canada announced a series of new Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) regulations at the end of last week. These new rules are intended to provide greater protection to workers, as well as to align industry standards with common international practice when it comes to the safe handling, usage and storage of hazardous materials in the workplace.

These new additions to OHS regulations are part of the Government of Canada’s implementation of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), in order to coordinate Canada’s hazardous materials system with that of other nations, especially key trading partners such as the U.S, the E.U, Australia, China, Japan and South Korea, all of which are either currently in the process of adopting the GHS or already have done so. Officials believe that by improving and harmonizing all hazard information as standard, businesses will save money and will be better able to comply.

By adopting the GHS for workplace hazardous materials, the Government of Canada hope to be able to facilitate greater trade, reduce the inherent costs to Canadian businesses of compliance with regard to trans-border shipments and to make Canadian suppliers of workplace chemicals more competitive. All of that is in addition to the strengthening level of protection of Canadian workers, which will improve their overall health and safety.

Using Social Media in OHS

Monday, July 4th, 2016

Social MediaThese days, it’s safe to say that social media is everywhere. Everywhere we go, we see people using it, whether at home, or in the park, shopping for groceries or doing any number of things (except driving! Never use it while driving!). It sometimes seems as if most people we encounter are staring at their phone, checking out the latest Facebook, Twitter or  Instagram posts, checking to see if a client, friend or co-worker has shared their wisdom on LinkedIn or checking YouTube or TED for the latest videos. Even this blog is part of the social media infrastructure; there’s a good chance you were brought here by a Facebook, Google+ or Twitter posting.

According to a study released last year by Forum Research, Facebook is the top social network in Canada, followed by LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, in that order. On average, the study indicated that, for young Canadians, Instagram is the most popular network, drawing 32 per cent of them at least six times per week, with almost as many – 25 per cent – using Twitter at least five times per week.  Social media is a huge factor when it comes to connecting people, and OHS professionals are beginning to use it a lot more as they attempt to communicate with more people in the workplace.

Workplace trainers and OHS professionals can incorporate social media in their training programs very easily and cheaply and it may have a greater impact. For example, rather than rounding up workers for health and safety training, a greater number of trainers are posting short videos on YouTube or passing on safety information via Facebook or Twitter that only takes a few seconds or minutes for a worker to read or watch.  Not only that, but it’s possible to get real-time feedback in the form of shares and Re-Tweets and the information can be re-sent any number of times for maximum effect.

One thing that can happen when incorporating a social media platform into training is that it actually increase the credibility of the trainer and possibly even trigger engagement among the intended audience. This is especially true when it comes to young workers, who are three times as likely to be injured on the job as other workers. A well-developed social media presence can present an opportunity to get more information out to more people. That means every workplace can benefit, due to each worker’s ability to pass on the safety-related information in real time. Young workers are more likely to pay attention to a safety message if it comes from a co-worker, friend or family, regardless of the original source. That makes social media a potentially valuable tool for OHS professionals.

Ontario Targeting Roofer Safety

Friday, July 1st, 2016

roofersJust a reminder that, throughout the summer, inspectors from the Ontario Ministry of Labour will be targeting residential roofing worksites as part of their attempts to protect workers on the job and to keep homeowners informed as to the inherent risks of hiring contractors who work for cash “under the table.”

Contractors should be aware that this initiative won’t just include jobs that are done in the middle of a weekday; it will also include visits to residences where roofs are being repaired or replaced during after-hours and on weekends.

In addition to making sure workers are protected, inspectors are handing out information sheets to homeowners. This is the second year in a row in which the Ministry is conducting such a campaign. Prior to the busy season for residential roofing, they conducted an online campaign, including ads on Google and Kijiji, in an effort to raise homeowners’ awareness of the underground roofing economy and worker safety.

One reason the Ministry of Labour is focusing on this is because Ontario workers who perform roofing work on residential homes suffer a higher-than-normal risk of injuries or death because the industry traditionally features a low rate of compliance with provincial occupational health and safety regulations, in part because so many contractors are working under the table. That’s why they have partnered with the Ministries of Finance and Government and Consumer Services on the initiative to combat the underground economy and protect consumers as well as workers.

All of this is part of an overall initiative to increase workplace awareness of new mandatory Working at Heights training requirements and a Construction Health and Safety Action Plan. It is a fact that falls continue to be the most common cause of serious injuries at construction sites. Also, last year’s roofing initiative was very successful, resulting in more than 25,000 visits to the Ministry website for more information.

Reports of Worker Retaliation in Alberta

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

ppeThe Alberta government is reminding employers in and around the Fort McMurray wildfires that devastated the area last month that provincial occupational health and safety laws are still fully in force and that safety officials will be looking into stories indicating that such rules are being ignored.

The warning comes in the wake of stories in which workers who have traveled to Fort McMurray to take jobs cleaning up homes in the city have been the victims of harassment and retaliation because they happened to bring their concerns to light about the safety of the cleanup or the lack of necessary safety equipment. In several cases, it has been reported that clean-up workers in some cases were supplied with no information or warnings about the potential health risks they faced while cleaning rooms that were coated with a thick layer of potentially toxic ash, including the possible presence of asbestos, which can cause serious lung diseases, including cancer.

Some workers have reported conducting research on their own and growing worried over their conditions, but when they expressed their concerns to supervisors, their concerns were not treated in an acceptable manner. In a few cases, workers have been fired, while others were sent back to work without addressing their concerns and threatened with termination if they continue to mention it.

That is why Alberta safety officials are reminding all employers, especially those in the clean-up area, that workers dealing with ash should be supplied with respirators, eye protection and they should have no exposed skin. The province is also reminding workers that they have a legal right to refuse work that the workers feel could pose an “imminent danger.” Workers are always entitled to all information available regarding possible safety issues surrounding any job and they should ask for that information up front.

In the meantime, the provincial government is continuing to investigate OHS complaints and issuing citations for violations, so employers in the area should be just as careful as every other employer when it comes to safety.

Poll: Young Workers Afraid to Ask for Help

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

Social MediaA Canadian national charity, Parachute, has launched a new initiative in Ontario that it calls #Safe4Life. Put simply, this is a province-wide social media campaign with a goal of educating young workers on workplace safety and giving them a safe place to discuss concerns they may have about workplace safety.

Part of the reason for the initiative is statistics showing that new and young workers are three times more likely to be injured in Ontario. That reason is reflected in Parachute’s recent poll of  500 young workers aged 16-19, which found that nearly half would be too embarrassed to begin a job and ask their employer, a supervisor or even a co-worker, about workplace safety hazards, for fear of looking bad. The poll also found that about one in four of them claim they don’t understand the concept of worker rights, even the most basic right, to refuse unsafe work.

There is other disturbing information in the poll, not the least of which is that more than half of those who either work now or have worked before responded to the poll by saying that about half had not been supplied with proper safety equipment at least once and that only 35% of those who were properly equipped had been trained in using it.

It is estimated that, in Ontario alone, an average of 20 workers per day who are under the age of 25 are injured seriously enough to lose time from work. The overall goal of #Safe4Life is to change that equation for the future. The initiative offers a virtual space where any young worker can ask questions and openly discuss their workplace safety experiences.

WorkSafeBC Blames Film Company for Injury

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

film crewAccording to WorkSafeBC,  a film production company failed in its mission to ensure the safety of all workers on the set of the 20th Century Fox  film, “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” in March, when an accident left actor Dylan O’Brien injured.

The incident they point to happened on March 17, 2016, after the production company made a change in an action scene in the film. After the changes were made, O’Brien was struck by one of the vehicles and injured. Immediately after the accident, O’Brien was transported to hospital in Vancouver and the film’s director, Wes Ball, shut down filming while he recovered. As of now, it is unclear if the filming has resumed.

In the Employer Incident Investigation Report filed with WorkSafeBC by Fox U.S. Productions 49 Inc., the company says the scene was rehearsed before the accident and a safety meeting was held. The report also described the scene as involving a trailing and leading vehicle, but that the scene had changed to something far more complex that increased the risk of injury.

While the company maintained that all precautions had been taken and that there had been plenty of rehearsal, it was then that O’Brien was hit by one of the vehicles and was seriously injured. The nature of the injuries was redacted from the report. WorkSafeBC wasn’t convinced of the company’s level of preparation and suggested that the preparations failed. As a result, they have ordered the company to prepare a notice-of-compliance report, due this week.