Archive for the ‘Ministry of Labour’ Category

WorkSafeBC Concerned About Hearing Loss

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

Hearing_protectorsAccording to WorkSafeBC, 2014 test results have shown that workers in the province’s oil and gas industry at all levels are far more likely to suffer hearing loss than other industries. Their findings show that more than 36 per cent of oil and gas workers demonstrated signs of noise-related hearing loss.

Because that number is more than double that of other industries, officials at the agency fine that number alarming and they have indicated that they intend to look into ways to make sure employers in the oil and gas industry are taking seriously their legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their workers, including the prevention of noise-related hearing loss.

According to the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, all employers are required to monitor noise levels in every workplace and provide appropriate hearing loss prevention programs to all workers exposed to hazardous noise levels. In addition, all workers who are subjected to high levels of noise should be undergoing regular hearing tests, at least annually.

Despite these requirements, WorkSafeBC data suggest that only about 15 per cent of oil and gas workers who should have been tested in 2014 actually were tested. The data also indicate that hearing protection is insufficient in many oil and gas workplaces and is in need or re-evaluation by industry employers, in any case. Most troubling is that 27 per cent of young oil and gas workers who should be wearing hearing protection report doing so. They are concerned enough, employers should expect a crackdown.

Mining Company Fined $365k

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Mining Company Fined $365kIn the wake of two separate accidents involving heavy equipment operators that happened in 2014, last week Lac Des Iles Mines Ltd. was hit with a total fine of $365,000 last week. In the incidents, one worker was seriously injured and another was killed.

The first accident happened on February 22, 2014, as a heavy equipment operator was in the process of loading mining trucks with an excavator and the working face of the stockpile failed, sending a large amount of material onto the excavator, crushing the operator’s cab and trapping the worker inside. The material also crushed the radio, so the worker was unable to call for assistance or shut down the motor while he was trapped inside. It wasn’t until another equipment operator discovered the trapped worker that mine rescue personnel were able to get to and extricate him about two hours after the incident. The worker suffered hand and leg injuries.

The second incident occurred on July 10, 2014, as a miner was operating a scoop tram, which is similar to a front-end loader that works underground to haul ore, when he was crushed by a load of muck or rock. His body was found at the bottom of an inclined excavation, just before what is called the ‘safe-limit line,’ which designates a hazard zone to workers. It is still unknown why the worker was beyond the line or why he was outside of the loader’s cab with a raised bucket full of rock and its engine still running.

After a thorough investigation, the Ontario Ministry of Labour issued a number of orders to Lac Des Iles Mines Ltd., including one to ensure that written safety precautions and procedures were established and used before, during and after removal of material, an order the company complied with by developing a written policy that no worker outside a loader would be permitted ahead of the safe-limit line without permission from a supervisor. They were found guilty of failing to ensure that written safety precautions and procedures were established and followed to prevent a worker from being outside of a loader while ahead of the safe-limit line, which brought a fine of $300,000, and for failing to ensure that a stockpile of unconsolidated material was made safe before a worker was allowed to work close to or on top of the stockpile, which brought an additional $65,000.

In addition to those fines, which were imposed by Senior Justice of the Peace Raymond Zuliani in Thunder Bay court on January 18, 2016, a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge was also added, meaning the total cost to the company was $456,250. Yet more proof that safety doesn’t cost a company nearly as much as the alternative.

B.C. Workplace Fatalities Rise

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Builder with crutchesIn British Columbia, construction worker fatalities increased about 40 per cent last year, with a large proportion of that increase led by sharp growth in the number of workers who died due to exposure to asbestos while on the job decades ago. The problem is so bad, WorkSafeBC is finally acknowledging that the situation may be significantly worse than actuarial calculation previously suggested. While it was believed that asbestos-related fatalities would peak at some point between 2015 and 2020, it is now expected that the higher numbers may continue for a while longer than that, well into the 2020s.

In B.C. last year, a total of 44 construction workers died from work-related injuries or illness, with 26 of those dying from exposure and 18 dying from trauma. Compare that to 2014, when a total of 31 construction workers died, with 19 dying from exposures and 12 from trauma. While both numbers are concerning, it is ultimately possible for employers to limit deaths from trauma.

Asbestos was once widely used throughout Canada because of its resistance to fire and heat, but these days, its reputation is based more on its reputation as a leading cause of workplace death; it has been linked to at least 5,000 deaths in B.C. in just the last 20 years, from such health issues as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. While WorkSafeBC doesn’t have an exact dollar amount that asbestos-related disease is costing the province, disease-related workplace deaths have exceeded the number of on-the-job fatalities since at least 2009.

Class Action Filed Against WorkSafeBC

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

inspectorThe terrible explosions at sawmills that rocked British Columbia at the beginning of 2012 continue to have major repercussions for the entire province. Last week, as ten people recently asked a B.C. judge to certify a class-action lawsuit in which injured parties and families are looking for damages for physical and mental injuries from the agency charged with keeping them safe, WorkSafeBC.

As you may recall, the two separate explosions, which happened days apart in January 2012, left four workers dead and at least 42 others injured. The first occurred at Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake, while the second hit Lakeland Mills in Prince George. The notice of civil claim named the B.C. Workers’ Compensation Board and WorkSafeBC.

The class members are claiming that workers “trusted WorkSafe to take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the mills and to competently investigate the explosions.” They claim that WorkSafeBC “betrayed the (workers’) trust, denied them justice … And robbed them of the sense of security and safety that a trustworthy and competent system of prevention and deterrence provides.” Ultimately, they claim that WorkSafeBC failed in its legal duty to protect workers and represent their interests.

According to the claim, many of the injured workers were out of work for months following the explosions, which had been caused by combustible wood dust in levels that WorkSafe had identified as unsafe months or years earlier. However, despite dozens of inspections of the mills over a number of years heading up to the explosions, the companies were not cited for the buildup of combustible wood dust, nor were they issued orders to clean up the dust. Because of this, they characterize WorkSafeBC’s conduct as “reckless” and say they failed to meet even a reasonable standard of conduct for “responsible and competent inspectors.”

Though these types of cases are untested in court, the claim says that, under the Workers Compensation Act, workers can’t sue their employers, they must rely on WorkSafeBC to protect their interests and the agency refused to do this. The agency now has a few weeks to respond to the allegations, so we’ll see where this goes.

Supervisor Gets Prison Term

Monday, January 18th, 2016

Supervisor SentencedIn a move that demonstrates the seriousness with which the Ontario government and the entire workplace safety apparatus in the province may be taking the enforcement process these days, an Ontario Court judge has actually used the so-called “Westray Amendments” and sentenced a construction project manager to 3½ years in prison based on his role in a Christmas Eve 2009 incident in which four employees of Metron Construction were killed and another was injured when a swing stage collapsed as the workers were doing a rehab project on a Toronto apartment building.

This is the second such conviction for this incident. Back in 2012, Metron Construction itself became the first to be convicted criminally after Ontario amended its criminal code as a response to the 1992 Westray Mine disaster that killed 26 miners in Nova Scotia. For their conviction in the scaffolding failure, Metron was fined more than $1 million. The owner and director of the company, Joel Swartz, faced no jail time, despite pleading guilty to four violations of Canada’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

This sentence, which was imposed on Vadim Kazenelson, came after he was found guilty last June on four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. This is the very first time an employer in Ontario will face jail time for such offenses.

The judge who passed sentence, Justice Ian MacDonnell, told the court that he imposed the sentence because it was proportionate to the gravity of the project manager’s offences. “The seriousness of the offences committed by Mr. Kazenelson and their consequences cannot be doubted,” he said. “A significant term of imprisonment is necessary to reflect the terrible consequences.” He hopes the sentence will serve as a deterrence to others who make the same sorts of mistakes.

Following the sentencing, Kazenelson apologized for his role in the collapse and told the judge that he lives with the pain of what happened every day. He was then led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

Saskatchewan Has New Training Resource

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Young peopleWorkSafe Saskatchewan has created a new resource, Young and New Worker Orientation, that is designed to assist employers with making sure young workers understand the basics of workplace safety and become more involved in developing a workplace safety culture.

Provincial workplace safety officials believe this is the perfect time for a resource such as this, since an average of 6,000 workers under 25 are injured on the job each year. In all, they are far more likely than workers in other age groups to be injured on the job. WorkSafe Saskatchewan’s Mission: Zero has been trying hard to get employers to focus more on workplace safety and reduce those numbers. Young and New Worker Orientation will attempt to provide companies with the information and resources they need to do just that.

Too often, young and new workers are nervous about starting their new job, they’re anxious to impress both their new employer and their co-workers, and they are afraid of looking stupid or silly. All of that combines to make them reluctant to either ask questions or stand up for their rights, which are the key to avoiding hazardous situations. When supervisors take the lead,  provide orientation and demonstrate a willingness to answer questions, young workers are more likely to feel better about asking questions and feel more secure in exercising their rights, which include the right to refuse unsafe work, thus leading to a safer work environment for everyone. This is a crucial part of building a strong workplace safety culture, which saves everyone time, money and heartache.

The new program explains to young workers about their employers’ legal obligation to provide a healthy and safe work environment and it also teaches them about their right to know about safety hazards; the right to participate in occupational health and safety activities and the all-important right to refuse dangerous work.

Workplace Fatalities Down Two-Thirds in B.C.

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Hardhat Safety manualAccording to a new report, the rate of workplace fatalities in British Columbia has fallen sharply over the last 25 years, even in high-risk sectors like construction. Though there seems to be no single factor that can be credited for the decline, researchers suggest a combination of factors, including companies enhancing their safety culture, an increase in the availability and quality of safety training and increased public scrutiny, may be behind the drop.

According to the data, which came from WorkSafeBC, the workplace fatality rate from injury dropped by two-thirds over a quarter century, from 1.02 per 10,000 person-years of work in 1990 to 0.34 in 2014. Even with that drop, however, 2,305 B.C. workers died on the job from injuries sustained during that same time period. Those figures also do not include the 1,437 deaths from workplace illness that occurred during the same period.

WorkSafeBC refuses to stay put and take a victory lap, however. Though the fatality rate is falling sharply, they feel that even a single workplace death is too many and 80 B.C. workers died on the job from injuries in 2014. They have not only promised even greater vigilance to lower the rate further, but they also promised to develop better methods for determining the root causes of workplace accidents and foster the continued development of workplace safety cultures, to improve things further.

The groups say continuing vigilance, more sophisticated approaches to determine root causes of unsafe work incidents and improving workplace safety culture is needed to drive death rates down further. And the key to everything is better training for workers throughout the province.

Young Worker Safety a Priority in Manitoba

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Injured teddy bearA workplace safety advocacy group has embarked on an initiative, which they call the Young Worker Injury Prevention Strategy, in which they hope to minimize the number of young workers who end up injured on the job.

Currently, the numbers are just too high. Last year, 4,880 workers ages 15-24 were injured badly enough to require medical attention and to miss at least one day of work in Manitoba. Also, over the last decade, at least 17 young workers in that age group have died as a result of workplace incidents. The injuries range from cuts and sprains to back injuries or worse, and they occur in all sorts of environments, but seem to be more frequent in the construction industry than in many others.

The new campaign hopes to educate workers and their families on the attitudes that many young workers have that can combine with their lack of experience to make their job potentially more dangerous. Sometimes, a young worker will take a job they are not prepared for, just because they’re willing and eager to work. In addition, they are anxious to please the employer and to make a positive impression and all of that can combines to make them reluctant to ask questions or express concerns, which can certainly create a potentially very dangerous situation for a young worker.

In addition to reaching the young workers themselves, it is hoped that employers and educators will also teach young workers that they have rights and it is incumbent upon them to ask questions and refuse to do any work they consider to be unsafe. Keeping all workers safe is everyone’s business.

Ontario Tree Trimmers Fined

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

WarningAn Ontario tree trimming and removal services company, Landgraff Forestry Ltd., pleaded guilty and was hit with a $50,000 fine after an incident in which a worker was struck by a tree limb and suffered critical injuries.

The accident that led to the fine happened on July 19, 2014,  when workers were in the process of removing two dead trees from a residence in Windsor. The owner of the company, David Landgraff, was cutting tree limbs while operating a bucket truck, at the same time two workers were on the ground, waiting for a tree limb to be lowered.

According to Landgraff, he saw that the workers on the ground were clear, so he proceeded to cut a limb from one of the trees, which was about 12 feet long and weighed more than 100 pounds. The limb had a rope attached that was strung through a fulcrum point on an adjacent tree and through a Hobbs device, which is used by tree trimmers to safely lower cut limbs to the ground. A worker on the ground was in control of the other end of the rope. However, the limb swung with such force that it apparently caused a knot in the rope to loosen, which caused the limb to drop about 30 feet, where it struck one of the workers on the ground, causing several broken bones.

An inspector from the Ontario Ministry of Labour determined that the Arborist Industry Safe Work Practices Manual, which covers safe tree trimming in detail, describes the drop/fall zone as the area where cut tree limbs may fall as being double the length of the tree in all directions and that such a zone should be noted and properly marked, so as to ensure that workers do not enter it during cutting. The employer and the injured worker both held certificates of qualification as utility arborists, which means they should have known and understood this.

Under the circumstances, the Ministry of Labour charged that Landgraff failed to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that workers did not enter the drop/fall zone, which is a violation of section 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, requiring an employer to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker at the workplace. The company pleaded guilty to the charge and they were fined $50,000 by Justice of the Peace Elizabeth M. Neilson in Windsor court on December 21, 2015.

In addition to the fine, the court also imposed the mandatory 25 per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act, which means the total hit to the company’s bottom line was $62,500, all for not taking basic precautions to keep workers safe.

Saskatchewan Mining Company Fined $200k

Monday, December 21st, 2015

judgementIn Saskatoon provincial court earlier this month, Potash Corp pleaded guilty to workplace safety charges related to the death of a worker at the company’s mine at Cory, Saskatchewan  that occurred on Feb. 17, 2014, when the roof collapsed over the area of the mine where he was working.

The worker, 31-year-old Jason Shulist, had been working at the Cory mine for three years at the time of the accident, when what was referred to as a “ground fail incident” occurred. “Ground fail” is what happens when part of the ground, such as the roof in this case, falls onto a worker. Shulist was struck by a piece of ore and injured. Other workers on his work detail administered CPR on the spot, and they got him to the surface as quickly as possible, where he was transported to hospital by ambulance, where he died some time later.

Present in the courtroom for sentencing were PCS Potash senior executives from the company and Shulist’s family, where they saw the company plead guilty and accept a fine of $200,000, plus an $80,000 surcharge. As he issued the fine, Judge Albert Lavoie spoke directly to Shulist’s family. “How do we bring accountability to corporations?” he asked. “Through fines. The corporation has to publicly account for what happened.”

After the hearing, company officials said they take the safety of their workers seriously, and that they regretted the failure, but also said that “human judgment” was involved. They also said they have modified their procedures since the accident. They claim they now use more bolts in each mine’s ceiling, and more ground penetrating radar to check for issues.