Archive for the ‘Ministry of Labour’ Category

Young Worker’s Death Brings Call for Review of Alberta Child Labour Laws

Monday, August 11th, 2014

 ICounseling - In Tearsn the wake of an incident late last month at a gravel pit that took the life of a 15-year-old worker, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) has called for a review of the province’s child labour laws.

According to reports, the teen had been working with a conveyer belt machine at an Arjon Construction Ltd. site, and was apparently attempting to remove a jam in the machine when a piece of his clothing became caught and pulled him into the machine.  The worker had only been working with the company at the site for a few weeks, he apparently had received no training on the machine and he wasn’t being supervised at the time of the accident. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Alberta Occupational Health and Safety has launched an investigation.

Following the accident, the AFL issued a statement, pointing out that Alberta’s labour laws covering children and adolescents are among some of the most lax in Canada. They also noted that a recent Employment Standards review by Alberta workplace safety officials offered provincial officials with an opportunity to toughen those standards, but they did nothing.

The AFL also noted that they have recommended ways to improve safety standards and working conditions for young workers. Their latest submission was made on April 11, 2014 and included a number of recommendations, such as conducting targeted inspections of workplaces that hire workers who are 15-17 years old, especially in dangerous occupations like construction. They also suggested a special mandated health and safety training program specifically geared to those employers who hire 15-17 year olds. Another recommendation was to review whether some dangerous activities such as forklift operations and construction work should be prohibited for those under 18 altogether.

B.C. Sawmill Ordered to Pay $724,000 for Fatal Explosion and Fire

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

judgementWorkSafeBC has ordered Lakeland Mills Ltd, the owners of the British Columbia sawmill that experienced a terrible explosion and fire on April 23, 2012, to pay upwards of $724,000 in penalties. That incident took the lives of two workers, 43-year-old Alan Little, and 46-year-old Glen Roche, and injured 22 others. That explosion and fire came just a couple months after another fatal explosion and fire at a Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake, B.C.  Babine was fined about for their role in that one.

One reason for such a high fine, which included a $97,500 administrative penalty and a $626,663 claims-cost levy may have been because the British Columbia Criminal Justice Branch said earlier this year that it would not be laying charges against the company because too much of the evidence collected would have be inadmissible in court because of the shoddy way the investigation had been handled by WorkSafeBC investigators. That has led the agency to overhaul its investigative methods.

According to WorkSafeBC, Lakeland Mills violated the Workers Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations and they ordered he company to pay for such violations. In a statement, they acknowledged that, no matter the size of the penalties and fees, it would not make up for the pain and suffering of the families of those who were killed or injured.

Lakeland Mills executives responded to the announcement of the fines by suggesting that the company hadn’t yet looked at all of the information, and they would respond at a later date. They seemed to suggest that they might fight it. But some worker safety advocates referred to the penalties as a slap on the wrist, and recommended an independent inquiry, so that the families might find closure.

Alberta Injury Rates at Record Low; Not Good Enough

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Handicapped driverWith the rate of worker on-the-job injuries down for 2013, the latest statistics from Alberta’s Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) look very rosy indeed. They continue what has become a 20-year trend of improved workplace safety. Things are looking so good, the lost-time claim rate (LTC) for 2013 was the lowest ever recorded, at 1.34 per 100 person-years. That number is down from 1.40 in 2012. In addition, the disabling injury rate (DIR), which measures how many workers were either unable to work or forced to modify their work duties due to injury, dropped in the manufacturing, oil and gas and construction sectors last year. In those sectors, the rate for 2013 was 2.67 per 100 person-years, down from 2.72 in 2012.

But while things are looking up, no one is satisfied, nor should they be. The overall trend is hopeful, to be sure, but, despite improvements in safety, 2013 featured 188 workplace fatalities. And while the injury rate decreased, the number of disabling injury claims actually increased slightly, because there was a 2.9% increase in the provincial workforce, to 2.1 million in 2013. There were 54,140 disabling injury claims in 2013, which was a two per cent increase from 2012, when 53,081 claims were filed. Disabled injury claims are figured by combining lost-time claims and modified work claims.

In a statement, the Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour, Kyle Fawcett wrote: “I’m pleased to see a steady improvement in workplace safety. The hard work of industry, employers, workers, safety associations and government is paying off. That said, there are still far too many workplace deaths. I want all Alberta workers to get home safely at the end of the day.”

Ontario Conducting Summer Construction Blitz

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

MOLThe latest safety blitz by the Ontario Ministry of Labour is underway, and will continue through the rest of July and the entire  month of August, so employers in the construction field should be prepared.

Specifically, this blitz is focused on fall hazards at construction sites, which are the leading cause of critical injuries and fatalities in the province. Inspectors will be making visits to many construction sites, to make sure that everyone involved, including employers, supervisors and workers, is compliant with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations. They will primarily be targeting those workplaces with a high frequency of fall injuries, as well as those with a history of non-compliance. They will also respond to complaints. But even those construction sites with a good safety record could receive a visit. Inspectors will pay particular attention to making sure prevention policies and programs are in place, and that safe work practices are being followed.

More particularly, Ministry of Labour inspectors will pay close attention to openings in workplace surfaces, to make sure they have guardrails and protective coverings in place. They will also make sure that workers who use ladders, platforms and mobile stands receive proper supervision and have been properly trained. And, of course, they will make sure all workers are equipped with proper safety devices, including the fall protection systems and personal protective equipment required to keep them safe.

Ontario Ministry of Labour inspectors have conducted 65 inspection blitzes and more than 340,000 field visits since June 2008 and, as a result, they have issued more than 550,000 compliance orders. In 2013 alone, 16 Ontario workers died and 134 were critically injured in accidents in the construction sector.

Report Demands Better WorkSafeBC Investigations

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

InvestigationAccording to government officials in British Columbia, WorkSafeBC is about to undergo some significant changes with regard to the way it investigates workplace accidents.

Provincial officials released a report last week that took a look at the risks associated with dust at sawmills, based on two sawmill explosions — one in Burns Lake and one in Prince George – that were linked to wood dust. But in light of the fact that both  WorkSafeBC investigations into the blasts were badly botched, to the point that it was impossible to bring criminal charges, they also announced major changes to the investigatory process going forward.

The report includes more than 40 recommendations for future investigations, which the government insisted would be fully implemented. Among the recommendations include splitting the department that handles occupational death and injury investigations into two parts. There will also be increased inspections, a wider range of penalties, and the implementation of tickets and citations, with escalating penalties for repeat violations.

But the biggest change will come with the formation of specialized teams who will be specially trained to work with police and prosecutors. If agency investigators begin an investigation and decide that a prosecution is possible or desired, the original inspectors will hand it over to the team of specialists, who will then obtain the necessary warrants and warn employers of their charter rights. The team will then work directly with criminal justice branch prosecutors and a special constable would be assigned to co-ordinate with police.

These measures come in part because Crown prosecutors were unable to lay charges in connection with either of the two 2012 mill explosions, even though two workers died in each one. This is because of prosecutors’ concerns that most of the evidence collected by WorkSafeBC would be inadmissible.

Saskatchewan’s New Violation Ticketing System

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Saskatchewan FlagSince July 1, when a new measure took effect, employers in Saskatchewan who are found to have violated certain occupational health and safety laws may find themselves being issued a Summary Offence Ticket by a designated Occupational Health Officer.

These tickets, with which Saskatchewan Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety officials hope to spur businesses to improve health and safety practices in the workplace, while at the same time attempting to avoid costly and time-consuming and costly prosecution, carry penalties of between $250 and $1,000, plus victim surcharges, depending on the offence.

Among the 12 possible ticketable offences the two designated Occupational Health Officers will be looking for include; failure to ensure that all workers are equipped with and using personal protective equipment (PPE); failure to ensure that all workers employ fall protection systems at heights of three metres or more; failure to make sure that any opening or hole is properly marked and covered. Each of those tickets could cost someone $1,000, while a ticket for failure to submit a written progress report could cost $600.

Workers should keep in mind that, while most of the tickets will be handed out to employers, contractors and the like, one ticketable offence will apply to workers, and could cost that worker $250. That offence will be for a failure to use PPE, although workers will only be cited once the Occupational Health Officer verifies that the correct PPE has been provided by the employer.

In all cases and for all offences, all tickets will only be issued in those cases where other compliance measures have been used previously and found to be ineffective.

Wasteco and Front-End Loader Operator Fined for Fatal Accident

Monday, April 14th, 2014

FELSouthern Sanitation Inc., operating as Wasteco, has been fined $170,000, and one of its employees has been hit personally with another $6,000 fine for an accident in which a company worker was killed when he was crushed between two vehicles.

The company’s fine came as a result of pleading guilty at Provincial Offices Court on April 1, to failing to ensure that measures and procedures under the law were followed. The employee, Abdul Maneed Malik, was fined after he pled guilty to operating equipment in a manner that may endanger a worker.

The accident that led to the fines happened on April 15, 2013. That day, a worker backed a truck into a drop-off bay at a Wasteco transfer station at the same time Malik was operating a front-end loader in the same drop-off bay, placing waste into a collection area. The truck driver exited his truck and went to the back to attend to his open bin doors, just as Malik reversed the front-end loader, apparently without looking back to make sure the way was clear. The last he had seen of the truck driver was moments earlier, when the driver was still in the cab.

After backing up, Malik heard someone calling for help, then stopped the loader, after which he saw the truck driver lying face down on the ground just behind the truck. He ran to get help, while another worker tried to give the truck driver first aid. Emergency responders arrived soon after, and pronounced the driver dead at the scene.

In addition to the fines, the court also added a 25 percent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means the company is out $212,000 in total, and the driver will have to pay $7,500 out of his own pocket, simply because he failed to look behind him before backing up his front-end loader.

This is another example showing that creating a culture of safety doesn’t cost anyone; it pays.

Worker Loses Fingers, Food Processor Loses $110,000 Fine

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

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Last week, the Ontario Court of Justice hit Maple Leaf Consumer Foods, carrying on business as Maple Leaf Consumer Foods and Cappola Foods, with a $110,000 fine for an accident in which a worker using a meat chopping machine lost several fingers.

According to a report from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, the plant worker was operating a meat chopper, which has a moving blade enclosed in a small cage. When the blade was being operated and the cage was lifted, the blade would slowly come to a stop. While the worker was operating the machine, he noticed that some meat had become stuck in the blade, so he lifted the safety cage and used a hook to try and pull the meat from the blade, which continued to spin. The hook then became caught by the moving blade, which pulled the worker’s hand toward the blade, where his hand come into contact with the blade, which resulted in the loss of several fingers.

After a thorough investigation, the Ministry of Labour charged Maple Leaf Foods with failure, as an employer, to ensure that a moving part of a machine was cleaned only after it had stopped.

The $110,000 fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace David J. Hunt, who also added in the 25 percent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.

That means an easily avoidable accident ended up costing the company a total of $137,500. Compare that to the cost of training workers, and you’ll see what a bargain a safe workplace can be.

Heavy Equipment Theft Ring Busted

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

PoliceOntario Provincial Police (OPP) busted a very sophisticated and specialized theft ring and recovered more than $375,000 worth of heavy equipment.

The Barrie OPP officer was patrolling Hwy. 11 when he noticed some suspicious activity at a business location in an area just north of Barrie on Feb. 5 at 5 a.m., and stopped to investigate. Police nabbed two men and confiscated a mini-excavator, three skid-steers and a backhoe. All of the equipment had been stolen from businesses in surrounding townships over the past four months. In addition the heavy equipment, police also found a riding lawn mower, three ATVs, three generators and an $8,000 trailer.

Police describe the thefts as “made-to-order” and the criminals as “specialists.” The way the scheme worked is, if someone needed a $100,000 backhoe, they put in an order, and the thieves would find one and strip it down. In the case of the backhoe they recovered, even its lights had been removed. The thieves were so skilled, they were able to disable a machine’s GPS and remove the serial numbers, so that the owners may not even realize the machine was gone.

One of the alleged thieves is a 32-year-old Oro-Medonte man who was already on parole. He is still in custody. The second suspect, a 31-year-old man, also from Oro-Medonte, was released pending a future court date. Both men were charged with seven counts of possession of stolen property over $5,000, five counts of possession under $5,000, as well as unauthorized possession and unsafe storage of a firearm.

Labour Ministry Announces Youth Video Contest to Promote Workplace Safety

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

thumbs_upxsmallThe Canadian Ministry of Labour has announced the second annual “It’s Your Job!” video contest, and they are inviting high school students throughout Canada are to be creative in helping spread the word about staying safe on the job. The contest asks those students to shoot an original social media video that effectively brings home just how important it is to work safely.

The contest is designed so that students can participate in a provincial contest, with provincial and territorial winners then becoming eligible for two national contests. In one of them, the winner is chosen by a group of judges, but with the other Canadians can vote for their favourite video to win. At the national finals, the makers of the winning video will receive $2,000, with the second place video getting $1,500, and third place receiving $1,000. Provincial and territorial contest winners will be selected and notified by sometime this coming spring.

The Ministry considers events such as this video contest as crucial to creating a safety culture throughout Canada, as well as a great way to reach young people, who are at a greater risk of being injured on the job. Nearly a quarter of all occupational injuries are incurred by workers between the ages of 15 and 29. In 2011, a total of 68 Canadian workers aged 15 to 29 lost their lives in workplace accidents.