Archive for the ‘Ministry of Labour’ Category

Ontario MOL to Examine the Modern Workplace

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

inspectorBeginning in the spring, the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) plans to begin a series of consultations with regard to the changing workplace in the modern era, including discussions as to how they can amend and change such laws as the Labour Relations Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Employment Standards Act to make them more relevant and provide greater protection to workers in the rapidly changing economy.

The public consultations will examine such crucial issues as:

  • Greater diversity in the workforce;
  • The increased importance of the service sector;
  • Globalization;
  • Free trade agreements and their impact on labour; and
  • Technological changes.

The ministry is currently in the process of developing the plan for the consultations, which will include regional public meetings. They are also developing a plan for the research and analysis that will take place. They hope to be able to announce the final schedule within the next few weeks on the MOL website.

Leading the consultations will be C. Michael Mitchell, who has been a lawyer for 37 years, and who is now a full-time arbitrator and mediator, and John Murray, who was once a justice with the Superior Court of Justice and who just became a full-time mediator and arbitrator last month. Murray has often provided legal advice to major corporations, both public and private, as well as to hospitals and universities. The two of them will coordinate and lead the consultations, and then provide the MOL with a written report, complete with recommendations.

Slips, Trips and Falls Safety Blitz Continues

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

The Ontario Ministry of Labour is in the midst of a safety blitz, in which it is specifically targeting slip, trip and fall hazards at workplaces in the industrial sector, so you should keep an eye out from now until March 15.

Ministry inspectors will be paying special attention to make sure that employers are properly assessing such hazards and addressing then sufficiently when they find them. They will expect that employers who own plants that manufacture food, wood and metal products across the province, among others, will have policies and programs in place designed to protect workers from slips, trips and falls and that safe work practices are being followed. They will also make sure workers have appropriate access and egress to work areas.

In addition, inspectors will check to see that employers have performed proper hazard assessments on ladders, stands and platforms, and that they have been maintained properly and are being used properly. They will also make sure that all floors and other work surfaces are hazard- and obstruction-free, and that all workers in the workplace have been supplied with and have been trained in the proper use of appropriate fall protection systems, personal protective equipment and other safety devices, especially when they work at heights.

Slips, trips and falls are major hazards in industrial sector workplaces. In 2013, Ontario saw 11 work-related deaths from falls in that sector alone. With these safety blitzes, the Ministry of Labour hopes to cut that number by preventing problems before they occur. Since 2008, inspectors have made more than 345,000 field visits and issued more than a half million compliance orders. This marks their 69th inspection blitz they’ve conducted in that time.

New B.C. Law Could Bar Employers for Repeat Safety Violations

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

JusticeNew legislation introduced in British Columbia would give provincial safety officials the ability to bar any employer who openly ignores orders to stop repeating unsafe work practices from operating in their industry ever again. In addition, the law would allow inspectors to issue on-the-spot penalties for those employers who violate orders.

Because of privacy concerns, a provision that would name employers who are non-compliant was dropped from the bill before it was presented. However, it was noted that the names would become public anyway as part of the court process. Overall, WorkSafeBC officials are pleased with the bill and say it does exactly what was recommended in the report on two sawmill explosions that occurred in 2012 and left four workers killed and dozens more injured.

WorkSafeBC is in the process of implementing a number of recommendations made in the report, including a number intended to fix deficiencies in their investigative process that led Queen’s Counsel to decline to bring charges against Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake and Lakeland Mills in Prince George based on the two explosions, both of which are believed to have been largely caused by an accumulation of combustible dust.

In response to the report, agency staff have been properly trained with regard to searches and seizures, warrants and forensic interviewing, and they are now prepared to bring in a second team to take over investigations whenever they believe there’s the potential for employer liability in workplace incidents.

Some are suggesting this new legislation could change the playing field, by giving judges the ability to take away an employer’s ability to operate in an industry after WorkSafeBC seeks an injunction. It means employers who ignore the safety of workers won’t just have to worry about a temporary hit to their bottom line, but could face a lot more in the future.

New OHS Training in Newfoundland and Labrador

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Certification TrainingAfter receiving feedback from industry, training providers and safety experts, the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador (WHSCC) announced last week that it has revised Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) training, and the final changes will happen soon.

Beginning July 1, 2015, the certification training program for Occupational Health and Safety Committees and Worker Health and Safety Representatives/Designates (WHSR/Ds) will become effective. The new training program will be a minimum of 14 hours, which is quite a bit shorter than before. In addition, the program has been condensed into one single course for both OH&S committees and WHSR/Ds. The program content is also far more up to date, with the new training materials that will include a practical component, as well as case studies that will reflect new legislation that has been added in recent years.

Another wrinkle is that once participants have completed the new training program, they will then be required to renew their certification every three years.

According to the WHSCC, those committee members who have already completed training will have a little bit of time before they will be required to re-certify. They will use a phase-in approach, so that everyone will have to have completed re-certification by June 30, 2018 and then must renew their certification every three years thereafter.

Young Worker’s Death Brings $100,000 Fine

Monday, February 16th, 2015

Electrical_HazardOntario-based Signature Events Rental Shoppe has pleaded guilty to violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and fined $100,000 for an accident that resulted in the electrocution death of one young worker and injuries to several others as they were putting up a tent for a wedding.

The incident occurred in August 2013, just outside of London, Ontario. Six workers, all seasonal workers who were 25 or younger, were sent to the wedding location to set up the tent. As the crew raised one of the tent poles, it made contact with an overhead electrical line, which sent electric current down the pole into the rain-saturated ground.

Five workers were injured by the initial shock of the current, and several received an additional shock as they lay on the ground. Two of the young workers were able to drag the others away from the pole and administered CPR, but a 21-year-old worker from London succumbed to his injuries. Several other workers suffered burns and dislocation injuries.

An investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour discovered that none of the workers on the crew had received training in dealing with hazards such as overhead power lines, or any other safety training for that matter. In addition, no one from the company did an advance assessment of the location or asked utility companies for information, so that they could ensure that materials could be lifted or moved safely, as required by OHS.

Signature Events Rental Shoppe pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that the health and safety of workers was protected, and failing to provide adequate information, instruction and supervision to workers about the hazards of overhead electrical wires as required under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

In addition to the $100,000 fine, the court imposed the 25 per cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act, so not training these young workers properly and not providing a safe environment for them to do their jobs cost this company $125,000. This serves as even more proof that training workers to be safe doesn’t cost, it pays.

WorkSafeBC Orders Theater Catwalk, Ladders Replaced

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Fall safetyAfter a December fall in the backstage areas of the Sagebrush Theatre in Kamloops, part of the catwalk at the worksite are still closed off to workers, after a WorkSafeBC investigation revealed that they do not meet industry standards and must be replaced.

The fall that led to the investigation occurred on Dec. 6. 2014 when a woman fell more than eight metres. She is still recovering from her injuries, although she hopes to return to work soon. WorkSafeBC is still looking into that incident, but they said several ladders and several segments of the catwalk needed to be replaced.

So far, the four ladders have been purchased to replace those that failed inspection and should be installed by April. School District 73 operates the theater in partnership with Western Canada Theatre Company and the City of Kamloops, and they said the catwalk system will require more work and may take a while longer. In all, the catwalks may not be accessible to workers until at least July or August.

Productions by the Western Canada Theatre continue at the theatre, although limited access to the catwalks may affect lighting for future shows, since workers can’t change bulbs or access some lighting at all.


Gender Differences in Return-to-Work Rates

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Gender DifferencesAccording to recent research from the Partnership for Work, Health and Safety with cooperation from WorkSafeBC, women take slightly longer to return to work after an injury, and employers should take that into account when setting return-to-work policies.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from Population Data B.C. regarding acute injuries, such as broken bones, as well as data regarding injuries that were more cumulative in nature, like back strains and musculoskeletal injuries. They also examined the data across a wide variety of industries. What they discovered was that, across the board, it took slightly longer for women to return to work than men.

The study is not complete. Now, researchers will use more data to look into why these differences exist and come up with some explanations. They suggest that thesesuch explanations may be complex and that one reason for the difference may come with traditional roles, which may interfere with the speed of recovery.

For example, having young children in the home may be a factor in recovery times, because of the difference in home responsibilities between men and women. Even these days, women are still primarily responsible for tasks such as child care and care for sick family members, while the man’s main responsibility is as breadwinner. These could affect recovery times, and could require employers to adopt a modified return to work schedule for women.

Traditional roles may not be the only factor, however. Researchers also noted a few subtle gender biases existed within the health care community, and those may also be a factor. For example, they came across other research suggesting that orthopedic surgeons and family physicians are far more likely to recommend that a man receive a knee replacement than a woman, given the exact same condition.

Researchers also noted that women were more likely to work for a smaller employer or in a smaller workplace that didn’t have such work-related initiatives as modified duties or partial return-to-work options available, which could extend their time off work.

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.