Archive for the ‘Ministry of Labour’ Category

Report: New WorkSafeBC Investigation Methods Working

Monday, December 15th, 2014

WorksafebcAccording to a new report, a relatively new investigation model used by WorkSafeBC to look into workplace accidents that result in injured or dead workers will from here on be more likely to result in criminal charges against a company. The new system of investigation has been in place since September.

The report recommended an overhaul of inspection and investigation methods at WorkSafeBC, and was triggered by two explosions at British Columbia sawmills within a few months in 2012,Between them, the two explosions left four workers dead and 40 others injured. B.C.’s Justice Ministry blamed flawed WorkSafeBC investigation techniques in both cases for the decisions by the Criminal Justice Branch not to lay charges.

The report discussed the progress on the new investigation protocols so far, and the outlook was positive. They said, if a prosecution is needed, the agency now has the ability to make sure it’s successful.

The new investigative model allows investigators to conduct twin investigations, for both cause and prosecutions. This is done by bringing in a prosecution team early in the investigation, to make sure all evidence is protected and admissible to the courts. WorkSafeBC hopes to appoint a number of special constables to further assist with the investigation process.

The report cited several key areas where progress was noticeable since July, including the implementation of a sustained dust safety compliance plan and policies for the wood manufacturing sector, as well as the development of a health and safety association for that sector. They also noted the finalization of two Memoranda of Understanding between WorkSafeBC and police agencies to more greatly cooperate and share information at those times when they are conducting investigations at the same time on the same incident.

Between Oct. 6 and Nov. 25, two of the 118 mills monitored for dust were issued orders by WorkSafeBC to properly manage their combustible dust. One stop-work order was issued. The report cited that as “a dramatic improvement from where things stood six months ago.”

Company Faces Charges for Fall by 14 Year Old Roofer

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Roof WorkersIn Alberta, a roofing contractor faces numerous occupational health and safety charges in the wake of an incident this past July in which a worker fell nearly four metres from the roof of a house. What makes this case unusual is that the worker who fell was only 14 years old.

Airdrie, Alberta-based Vital Contracting Ltd. is scheduled to make their first appearance in court in Red Deer on Dec. 19, where they will answer to one count of inappropriately employing a person younger than 15 years old, and others, for their failure to train a worker in fall protection and their failure to develop a comprehensive fall protection plan. They have also been accused of failing to ensure the safety of a worker, failure to competently supervise the worker, and a failure to keep employment records.

The incident that led to the charges happened at a residence in Lacombe, which is located between Edmonton and Red Deer. Thankfully, the injured worker survived the fall, although he was hospitalized briefly.

According to Alberta’s Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour, this incident is particularly troubling, because it involved a young worker and fall protection, two areas that involve tremendous risk to workers, and which concern the agency the most. As a result, in addition to charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, they have taken the relatively rare step of also charging them under the province’s Employment Standards Code, based on the fact that they employed someone under 15 inappropriately. This is the first time since 2009 that they’ve lain charges under both Acts against a single employer

For violating the Employment Standards Code, Vital Contracting could face a fine of up to $100,000, while a first offence under the provincial OHS Act could cost them as much as $500,000 and/or six months in prison.


Rash of Alberta Workplace Deaths Continues

Monday, December 8th, 2014

BobcatThe rash of workplace fatalities in Alberta continues, as Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) investigates the fifth worker death in less than two weeks. It was also the eighth fatality since November 1.

According to RCMP, a worker was killed at about 8:50 a.m. on the morning of Friday, December 5, at an oil sands mine run by Canadian Natural Resources Limited near Fort McMurray. The fatality occurred as a result of a preventible accident involving heavy mining equipment.  Apparently, the 45-year-old worker was operating a bobcat as he attempted to repair a leaking hydraulic line. At the time, the bobcat’s bucket was suspended in the air and was unsupported. Eventually, the bucket suddenly fell, hitting the worker in the head and trapping him.

Mining operations have been suspended until OHS completes their investigation.

OHS notes that the province had been looking at fatalities possible being down this year, until this recent rash of workplace deaths. So far in 2014, there have been 52 workplace deaths, which matches the number for 2013. It also means there were 44 until November 1. There were 51 in 2012. While the overall annual figure is not spiking, it is still steadily high. The Ministry has promised to put more money into prevention and conduct more inspections. The province has continued to advance their program to turn inspectors into peace officers, who will be able to issue tickets for violations.

Company Fined $400k for Toronto Subway Construction Worker Death

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Subway constructionA terrible accident that occurred at a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) subway construction site in North York in 2011 has led to a guilty plea and a $400,000 fine against OHL-FCC GP Canada Inc.,the construction company for whom the victim worked. .

A work crew was on the job site near York University on October 11, 2011, when the accident happened. They were working on twin bored tunnels that will eventually become an 8.6-km subway line for the TTC. One of the workers was operating a drill rig equipped with an auger to create a shaft. At the same time, another worker was operating an excavator, digging dispersal holes near the pile being drilled so that wet waste material from the drill casing could be discharged into them. A third worker was operating a backhoe loader, which was being used to remove excavated earth from the drilling area.

The drill rig operator raised the auger from the hole and swung the mast. He and several witnesses saw the boom swing to the right and he felt the machine move. Witnesses also saw one of the drill rig’s tracks slip into a rut, which caused it to topple over. In the process, the mast and casing crushed both the excavator and the backhoe. The excavator operator was seriously injured, and the backhoe operator was killed in the accident.

The ensuing investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour determined that the main factors in the accident included inadequate site preparation, resulting in the soil base being incapable of withstanding the weight and pressure created by the drill rig. In addition, they found that the procedure of digging dispersal holes filled with wet material actually weakened the soil base, making the accident more likely. The drill rig was also being operated on a slope greater than allowed within safe parameters.

OHL-FCC GP pleaded guilty to failing as a constructor to ensure that safety measures required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act were followed, and was fined $400,000. The fine was imposed by Justice Melvyn Green in Old City Hall Court in Toronto, who also added a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means the company Is out $500,000 altogether, just because they didn’t take proper precautions to keep workers safe. Another example showing that safe workplaces don’t cost, they save.

Report: Ontario WSIB Still Rewarding Unsafe Employers

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

WSIB OntarioAccording to a new report, the Ontario workers compensation insurance system that was previously discovered to have been giving rebates to employers who were found to be dangerous back in 2008 investigation may still be doing just that.

The report, from the Ontario Federation of Labour, seems to suggest that, in years following worker deaths and serious injuries, a number of companies are still getting a lot of money in safety rebates. In some cases, the rebates were so large as to negate the fines the companies were assessed by Ontario courts for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) laws and regulations.

For its part, the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has questioned the accuracy of the research that led to this new report, and they claim to have taken what they refer to as “strong action” in recent years, cancelling $10 million or more in potential Fatal Claim Premium Adjustment policy rebates. However, the report notes that 135 employers who had been convicted of offences under the OHSA received premium rebates from the WSIB, and in 58 per cent of those cases, they received rebates for the same year their offences occurred. This happened between 2011 and 2013. In all, those rebates to 78 employers came to more than $14 million.

Most Ontario companies are required to buy insurance from the WSIB, and those premiums pay for the program. The purpose of the rebates is to reward those companies that are able to improve workplace safety. The also assess surcharges on those companies with a spotty record, in an effort to put pressure on them to improve. Unfortunately, it’s not looking as if the WSIB is doing things the way they are designed.

Alberta OHS Investigates 4 Worker Deaths in 7 Days

Monday, December 1st, 2014

WarningThe Alberta Ministry of Labour has been rocked by one of the worst weeks for workplace fatalities in the history of the province. Over a single seven-day period, four workers have died on the job; a number the Ministry has declared is “too many.” Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) officials are on the scene of all four incidents to investigate.

In the most recent incident, which occurred November 25, a worker was crushed to death at a site near Carseland, which is southeast of Calgary, as he was working on a crew that was removing a temporary bridge south of Highway 901. The Friday before, November 21, a 42-year-old worker was on top of a ladder at a residential construction site in St. Albert when he fell from the ladder, a height of about five metres, to the ground below. He was transported to hospital and died a short time later.

That incident came a day after a concrete brick wall collapsed on top of a 60-year-old worker at an industrial strip mall in northeast Calgary, crushing him. It was later discovered that the worker was sent by an agency called Blue Collar Temps to work for the Norcal Group, and that Norcal had been operating without a work permit. They were immediately issued a stop work order by Calgary city officials for any future construction.

And two days before that, on November 18, a 40-year-old worker from Edmonton was killed when he was struck in the head with a piece of machinery that has not yet been identified. That incident occurred in the Calgary neighbourhood of Cranston. It was later learned that the company that employed the worker, Insituform Technologies, had a disabling injury rate that was more than twice  the industry average for the province in both 2012 and 2013.

Alberta officials say they are in the process of training occupational health and safety workers to become peace officers. That will allow them to be more effective at enforcing workplace regulations more efficiently and effectively. This spate of workplace deaths will probably spur even more investigations.

Alberta Seeks Input on New OHS Rules

Friday, November 21st, 2014

alberta-flagAs part of the Alberta government’s regular review, officials at the Alberta Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour and Work Safe Alberta have proposed a number of changes to the provincial Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Code. As part of that process, citizens of the province are being asked to provide input on the changes.

The OHS Code governs health and safety practices in provincial workplaces and proscribes specific rules and regulations designed to keep workers safe. As part of the review process, Albertans are given an opportunity provide their input by completing an online survey, which will be open until January 31, 2015.

Among the subjects covered by the proposed changes this time around include noise exposure, scaffolds and temporary work platforms, personal protective equipment use, and the replacement of the province’s workplace hazardous materials information system to a system that is harmonized with the United States and other countries. There is also a new section regarding  bullying and harassment in the workplace and another on health and safety management systems in the oil and gas sector.

Every five years, the government of Alberta reviews and updates large portions of the OHS code, to make sure that the rules keep up with ongoing changes in technology and industries. In addition to the survey noted above, officials have been consulting with stakeholders since 2011.

Company Appeals WorkSafeBC Penalties for Explosion

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Sawmill fireMore than two years ago, in April 2012, a sawmill owned by Lakeland Mills Ltd. exploded, killing two workers and injuring 22 others in Prince George, British Columbia. In May of this year, WorkSafeBC issued sanctions against the company, and assessed penalties totaling more than $724,000.

Now, Lakeland Mills has filed a “Request for Review” of the penalties and issued a press release calling the amount excessive. In a press release, company officials said, “To accept a regulatory sanction for this tragedy would leave the wrong impression that Lakeland and its people were not diligent or were reckless.” They also noted that accepting such a high level of fines “would not fairly reflect what Lakeland believes is the whole truth about this tragedy.” They also said that no one with the company had any idea that workers were “in harm’s way.” Therefore, they decided that filing an appeal would help protect their reputation.

Lakeland Mills was able to escape criminal charges for the incident largely because Crown Counsel felt they couldn’t press charges under the Workers Compensation Act because of problems with the WorkSafeBC investigation. However, the WSIB report on the incident, which was released on April 14 of this year, concluded that the explosion had been quite preventable. While  the evidence gathered from that investigation was too tainted for a criminal trial, WorkSafeBC said it justified the issuance of a claims cost levy of $626,663 and an administrative penalty of $97,500.

In its statement, Lakeland claimed that it had taken all reasonable steps to reduce all foreseen risks before the explosion occurred, and that they made what they characterized as “diligent inquiries” about the hazards of combustible dust in the wake of a similar explosion at a Burns Lake sawmill three months earlier. They also claim to have taken steps to purchase new equipment that wuold have made dust collection safer. They also noted that Crown Counsel had deemed the incident unforeseeable.

Bill 18 Passes, Offers Protection for Ontario Temp Workers

Monday, November 10th, 2014

newsThis week, after amending Bill 18, which is a new temporary worker protection bill, to include two key concessions to workers’ rights advocates, Ontario’s legislature unanimously voted in favour of the bill. Now, nearly a year after it was first introduced, the bill will become law.

The new law will have a significant impact on the 133,000 temporary workers in Ontario, many of whom find their work through temporary employment agencies. Before Bill 18, the employment agencies themselves are responsible for protecting the workers’ rights under the Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This was the case, even though the employment agencies had very little contact with the workers once they were on the job. This situation led many temporary employees to feel unsure as to where they should turn whenever there were abuses of their. It was also discovered that many companies were using the cover of temporary agencies to avoid responsibility for such things as worker pay and workplace health and safety issues.

Bill 18 will make nearly every area of a worker’s rights the responsibility of both the agency and the company overseeing the work. Temporary workers who have grievances can now go to either one to demand protection. In addition, Bill 18 extends Occupational Health and Safety Act coverage to co-op students and unpaid interns. A lot more workers will be covered, and those who are covered will know who’s responsible. There will be a six-month grace period for employers and agencies when the Bill 18 Amendments do take effect.

Saskatchewan Company Fined $280,000 for Conveyor Accident

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Saskatchewan potash mineOn October 21, the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (PCS) pled guilty to one count of failure to comply with occupational health and safety regulations. At the same time they pled guilty to that violation, three other charges were withdrawn, including one for their failure to ensure that a worker did not remain within range of powered mobile equipment; another for their failure to ensure that every accessible section of a belt conveyor could be secured in the case of an emergency, and a third one for their failure to ensure that a temporary belt conveyor was equipped with emergency stop controls and that these controls were conveniently located. As a result of pleading guilty, the company was fined $280,000.

The charges stemmed from an accident on June 25, 2012 in which a worker at PCS’ Allan mine site near Saskatoon, 28-year-old Chris Reid, was killed when he became caught and was dragged into a conveyor while working underground. An investigation by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety resulted in the four charges above being lain against the company on Sept. 12, 2013.

In a way, the company got off lightly. At the time of the accident, the maximum penalty for a conviction for offences that led to serious injuries or fatalities was $300,000. That is no longer the case. In April of this year, the provincial government passed the Saskatchewan Employment Act, which increased the maximum penalty amount to $1.5 million for corporations and $500,000 for individuals.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Labour sent out a press release stating that it recommends prosecutions in cases where individuals or companies refuse to comply with regulations, or in those cases where significant risk of injury to workers is present because of the company’s non-compliance. Since April 1, the ministry has reported 38 convictions for oh&s violations, totalling more than $454,570 in fines. But expect that number to go up with the new penalties in place.