Archive for the ‘Ministry of Labour’ Category

New Ontario Working at Heights Regulations in Effect

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

WarningJust a reminder for those employers in Ontario; new working at heights (WAH) training requirements in the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act took effect on April 1. Since falls due to working at heights in an unsafe manner is a major factor in a great number of workplace fatalities and injuries at provincial workplaces, especially in the construction industry, this is important to know, because the Ministry of Labour plans to enforce this.

The new regulations require that all employers ensure that every worker on every construction project who has to use any sort of fall arrest system, including travel restraint and fall restricting systems, fall arrest systems, safety nets or safety belts complete a Ministry of Labour-approved training course for working at heights.

Those workers who have already been properly trained under the previous fall protection training requirements in the OHS prior to April 1 will have until April 1, 2017 to be properly trained under the new requirements. However, those workers who will be working at heights on construction projects and have not received training previously will have to undergo proper training before they start beginning now. Ministry inspectors will be treating this as a priority, and they have the ability to issue time-based compliance plan orders in cases when proof of training is required but has not been completed.

B.C. Coroner’s Inquest Put on Hold

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

B.C. Coroner's Inquest Put on HoldThe Coroner for British Columbia has decided to temporarily adjourn an ongoing inquest into the April 2012 explosion at the Lakeland sawmill in Prince George after receiving newly disclosed information regarding a second investigations into the tragedy.

In deciding on the adjournment, it was revealed that lawyers for the Lakeland mill had hired a forensic-engineering firm to conduct a separate extensive forensic investigation into the explosion. Despite the fact that WorkSafeBC knew about the investigation’s existence for more than two years, the Coroner’s counsel repeatedly asked if Lakeland had conducted their own investigation, and the answer was always no.

After discovering that a second investigation existed, Lakeland’s lawyers continued to refuse to release the information, citing client privilege. However, recently they relented and provided the Coroner with a memory stick containing 30GB of information on it. Unfortunately, the information is raw data; no one ever compiled a report.

The Coroner also found out that, despite the fact that WorkSafeBC knew of the existence of the investigation, they chose not to meet with Lakeland’s investigators and accept the data back in 2012, and chose instead to continue their own investigation and issue their own report.

The existence of the separate investigation and information that was gathered, many questions were raised about the WorkSafeBC report on the incident, so the Coroner’s office decided to request an adjournment, to give themselves an opportunity to compare all of the Lakeland investigation materials with the WorkSafeBC report and make sure it’s reliable.

The adjournment was announced just two days after the United Steelworkers (USW) union withdrew from the inquest because they had a problem with the way the investigations were handled, referring to it as little more than a “public-relations exercise.” They suggested there was too much focus on what Lakeland and WorkSafeBC had done since the disaster and not enough on why two sawmills exploded and what everyone was doing before them to prevent them.

A date for resumption of the inquest has not been set, but the B.C. Coroners Service said that would happen as soon as they can after examining this large amount of new information.

Vale Copper Smelter had “Poor Safety Culture”

Monday, April 6th, 2015

hardhatLast week, the Ontario Ministry of Labour laid 17 charges against Vale Canada Limited, two supervisors and one smelter worker for an incident that happened on April 6, 2014, in which 36-year-old worker Paul Rochette was killed and a second worker, a millwright, was injured. The incident occurred at the company’s Copper Cliff smelter.

Apparently, Rochette was attempting to remove a moil, which is a pin used in a machine used to crush ore. The crusher jaws had put the moil under such high pressure that, when he removed it, it shot out and struck Rochette in the head, killing him instantly.

In addition to the Ministry investigation, Vale and a local union also conducted an independent joint investigation, and noted in their report that the Copper Cliff Smelter did not have a strong safety culture at the time of the accident. While some in management at the company take safety very seriously, there are many others who don’t and Copper Cliff Smelter was apparently in the latter category.

Based on the findings from the joint investigation, Vale said in a statement last week that it made 58 recommendations, and that many have already been implemented.

Of the 17 charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, nine were against Vale Canada Limited, while five charges were laid against Vale supervisors; three against Eric Labelle, and two against Glenn Munro. A Vale worker named Greg Taylor is also facing three charges.

The charges are potentially very serious. The maximum fine for each charge faced by the company is $500,000, while the individuals face fine of as much as $25,000 and up to 12 months imprisonment for each charge.

Everyone charges is scheduled to make their first appearance at the Ontario Court of Justice in Sudbury on June 12, 2015.

Fatal Accident Costs Ontario Construction Company $112,500

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

hardhat bootsConstruction company Central Construction pleaded guilty last week and was subsequently hit with a $90,000 fine for a tragic incident at a high-rise student housing project in Waterloo that caused the death of a young worker. While the exact age of the worker is unknown, a ”young worker’ is defined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act as a worker younger than 25 years old.

The incident that led to the charges occurred on October 11, 2013, while the worker was part of a crew at the job site on King Street North in Waterloo. Central Construction had been subcontracted by the primary contractor, Maison Canada, to perform masonry work at the project.

The young worker was helping other workers in delivering a load of concrete blocks to the roof. A tower crane had lifted a 3,500-pound skid of concrete blocks to the roof and placed the skid onto wood planking, but the way they were placed resulted in the skid leaning slightly, creating a potential hazard. Therefore, the workers on the roof decided to re-land the blocks, so they re-strapped the blocks and the crane lifted them.

That caused the skid to be propelled suddenly toward the exterior parapet wall that surrounded the roof top. Unfortunately, the worker in question was situated between the parapet wall and the skid of blocks; the worker hung on to the skid of blocks, which proceeded to trolley out, and crashed through the exterior parapet wall, knocking the worker from the rooftop. That caused the young worker to fall about 13 metres, or four storeys, to a mast climber, which is a type of powered scaffold, that just happened to be there. The worker sustained severe head and leg injuries as a result of the fall and later died from those injuries.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour conducted an investigation, and found that, while the young worker had been trained in fall protection, he was not wearing any form of fall protection equipment at the time of the incident. Also, since the parapet wall was only 23-1/2 inches high, it did not constitute a guardrail.

As a result of that incident, Central Construction pleaded guilty to failing as an employer to ensure that a fall restricting system is used where a guardrail system is not reasonably possible. In addition to the $90,000 fine, Justice of the Peace Michael A. Cuthbertson also imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.

That means Central Construction is out $112,500 for not making sure a young worker was wearing fall protection on the roof of a 12-storey construction project. More proof that taking safety seriously doesn’t cost, it pays.

Saskatchewan’s Injury Rate Down, Still Too High

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Saskatchewan WCBLast week, the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) officially released its 2014 injury rates and the news is not bad, comparatively speaking. According to statistics, the province saw an overall reduction in the workplace injury rate, even though they saw an increase in the number of workers.

For 2014,  402,894 workers were covered by WCB in Saskatchewan, which is about 4,000 more workers than covered in 2013. Despite that increase in workers, the total injury rate for 2014 was 6.99 percent, which was significantly lower than the 7.80 percent reported for 2013, and even lower than the provincial goal for 2014, which was 7.50 percent.

Besides the improvement in overall injury rates, the number of accepted Time Loss claims dropped to 9,715 in 2014, from 10,116 in 2013, and Time Loss injury rates dropped to 2.41 percent in 2014 from 2.54 percent in 2013.

That doesn’t mean the province is patting itself on the back just yet. While there has been an overall downward trend over the last decade, and that’s encouraging, the province’s Time Loss injury rate is still nearly 50 per cent higher than the national time loss injury rate average of 1.65 per cent, as reported by the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC).

As part of an ongoing effort to improve that record, Saskatchewan Occupational Health and Safety has engaged in a new strategy that focuses their prevention efforts on employers with the greatest number of workplace injuries. They claim that the early results are encouraging, and that such targeted intervention do improve workplace injury rates in those companies.

Young People in Newfoundland & Labrador Urged to Become Safety Leaders

Friday, March 27th, 2015

EducationLast week, Canada’s Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, the Honourable Dr. K. Kellie Leitch spoke to students at the College of the North Atlantic about the necessity of educating and empowering young people.

Many of the students who listened to the speech are hoping to one day become health and safety professionals, and the Minister wants young people to feel empowered to become workplace health and safety experts, so as to protect themselves while they are on the job.

After the speech, the Minister held a meeting with a number of students, where she asked their views on the challenges young workers face with regard to occupational health and safety, especially with regard to their lack of experience, their fear of speaking up, and even the importance of eliminating the stigma that surrounds workplace mental health issues.

All of these issues are important, from a health and safety standpoint. While the injury rate among workers aged 15-24 years in federally regulated workplaces declined by about 8 per cent per year between 2005 and 2011, workers in that age group were still more likely to be injured on the job than all other workers. In 2013, more than 30,000 workers in that age group were injured seriously enough to require time off.

If They Work on Your Site, You’re the Employer

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

3d human at a stop poseIt’s worth remembering that, in Ontario and elsewhere, the definition of the term “employer” is much broader now than it was previously, and a recent guilty plea and significant fine should serve as a sobering reminder of the change.

In the recent case, the company in question, Marmora Freezing Corporation, pleaded guilty for its failure “as an employer to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.” The charge was pursuant to section 25(2)(h) of the OHSA. More specifically, the company admitted to its failure to make sure no pedestrians were present in an area with bad lighting and terrible sight-lines.

They did this, despite the fact that the worker who was hurt and eventually killed were security guards that were placed there by a temporary placement agency.

The accident that led to the charges occurred on December 13, 2011, when one of the security guards reported for duty on a shift that begin at midnight and immediately left the building for a smoke in the smoking area, which happened to be along the travel way outside of the building. One his way there, however, a car driven by another worker hit him and knocked him to the ground before leaving the scene. Right after that, a tractor/trailer reversed down the travel way, catching the fallen worker by the trailer’s mud flap and pushing him along the travel way nearly 100 metres to his death.

An Ontario Ministry of Labour investigation noted that the security guard was dressed in dark clothing, with no light or reflective components, and that there were no barriers in place to protect pedestrians from vehicles in the travel way. According to a Ministry ergonomist, who tested the visibility of surroundings, any driver would have had sight-line difficulties in the area, and that lighting was inadequate for ensuring the visibility of pedestrians.

As a result of the guilty plea, Marmora Freezing Corporation was hit with a fine of $150,000, and they were also assessed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That brings the total paid by the company to $187,500. In part, this is because companies that employ temporary workers are considered the “employer” for OHSA purposes in most cases.

Saskatchewan Construction Company Guilty of OHSA “Flagrant Disregard”

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

gavelAlthough Thue Construction Company attempted to blame a fall on the unlaced boots he was wearing, a Saskatchewan court has found the company guilty of five violations of the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act for an accident in which an 18-year-old worker, Jacob Ulmer, fell at least 20 feet and suffered serious injuries, including a broken wrist and two broken vertebrae.

It was Ulmer’s first day on the job, and had been working for about 6 or 7 hours when he was hurt. He had been assigned to work on roof trusses that were 20 to 25 feet high, but he had not been provided with fall protection equipment, and he had received no training at the time of the fall.

The owners of Thue Construction argued in court that Ulmer was an independent contractor, and not their employee, but the court rejected that argument, especially when they found out the owner’s son was Ulmer’s direct supervisor. They made note of a number of other reasons he was obviously an employee, such as the fact that Ulmer considered himself an employee, that no one had suggested that he was a contractor, and that the company had set aside money to pay him.

Not only did the company not protect Ulmer from the hazards of working at heights, they also failed to report the accident to Saskatchewan Occupational Health and Safety, who testified that they had received notice from Worker’s Compensation. For that the company was convicted of failing to report an accident to OHS in which a worker is in a hospital for 72 hours or more.

In addition, Thue Construction was convicted of failing to train the worker, failing to provide proper fall protection equipment and headgear, as well as failing to provide competent supervision. The court also noted that the company’s argument that Ulmer’s boots were untied was irrelevant, because it was the company’s duty to provide proper supervision, and to ensure proper safety procedures were followed. If they had done everything they were supposed to do, then the worker’s untied shoe may have mattered. But as such, it didn’t.

Ontario Could Start Regulating Private Safety Courses

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

FirefighterFollowing the tragic death of a firefighting student during a training exercise back on Feb. 8, the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) is now looking into the idea of regulating private companies that provide safety courses to firefighters and other first responders. Currently, companies that offer specialized courses that are not considered mandatory are under no government oversight, and there are no requirements for them to follow best practices established for firefighters.

Some in the Ontario government have called for regulation to make sure the firefighters taking such courses aren’t putting themselves at risk unnecessarily. Based on that, the MTCU is currently reviewing the Private Career Colleges Act, which regulates vocational training, and plans to propose amendments this fall to include private safety courses.

The Feb. 8 incident that cost 30-year-old Adam Brunt his life happened when he became trapped under some ice during a rescue exercise in Hanover. According to people who knew him, Brunt was taking the course in the hope of improving his job prospects after completing his firefighting program.

The Ministry of Labour is investigating the incident. Interestingly, the course that led to the death was run by Herschel Rescue Training Systems, which is owned by Terry Harrison, who was acquitted of charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act in an incident in 2010 that led to the training death of a volunteer firefighter near Sarnia. In that case, Harrison claimed he took part in that exercise, but did not lead it, and the judge ruled that since he was not the incident commander for the exercise, he could not be held responsible for the firefighters’ safety.

Saskatchewan Labour Ministry Orders More Random Inspections

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

InvestigatorOn March 4, Saskatchewan’s Labour Relations and Workplace Safety ministry ordered their Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) department to shift gears and increase the number of random inspections of work sites around the province. This order came after receiving a report that OHS had planned to once again reduce the number of random inspections and focus most of their efforts on the 62 businesses in the province with the highest injury rates.

When the Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety, Don Morgan, saw that report, he decided to step in and gave OHS the new orders. He said it seemed like a better strategy to make sure employers and the public knew OHS was out there and that they could show up anywhere at any time.

OHS started the highly focused strategy back in October 2013, when they first decided to scale back the number of random worksite inspections to focus their efforts on those worksites with high injury rates. At the time, Morgan approved of the more targeted approach and said it was working. However, he also believes they went too far in reducing the number of random inspections, because he sees the spectre of random inspections as an important tool for raising awareness among the public. He noted that telling OHS inspectors where to focus their investigations is much like telling police to stop only certain people. It may help with the numbers but it doesn’t make workers safer.

It didn’t help that the move away from random inspections drew widespread criticism, which Morgan decided was warranted, and worthy of a response, so he has ordered OHS to create a more balanced approach, with a mix of targeted and random inspections.