Archive for the ‘Ministry of Labour’ Category

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.

Important for Your Small Business: Be Blitz-Ready

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

MOLThe Ontario Ministry of Labour has a strong motivation to keep workers safe, by making sure that all workplaces are in compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations. It is because of this that the ministry conducts a large number of workplace inspection blitzes.

Most established businesses within the province are quite aware of the Ontario Ministry of Labour and its practices, including these inspection blitzes. However, based on statistics recently released by the Ministry regarding blitzes conducted between April 2013 in March 2014, it would seem that many small businesses are not. One of the key elements of running any business in Ontario is workplace safety. You should consider it to be as important as your business license.

During that time period, inspectors with the Ministry of Labour conducted just under 1,200 workplace inspections of businesses with fewer than 20 workers that had recently registered their business with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), but  had no prior contact with the Ministry of Labour before the blitz inspection. As result of these inspections, a surprisingly large number of new businesses were issued a large number of MoL orders, mostly for failing to deliver on the basics, such as an Internal Responsibility System (IRS), which clearly sets out the responsibilities of each worker, supervisor and manager for helping to maintain a workplace that is safe and healthy for everyone.

In all, inspectors made 1,589 field visits to 1,190 small businesses, and issued 4,014 orders for violations of the OHSA and its regulations, including 58 stop work orders, which is not the way you want to start your business life. Nearly half of those orders were related to the lack of an IRS, while 23% of those orders were issued because the workplace failed to develop a policy for addressing workplace violence and harassment. Nearly 20% of the orders were given because employers  failed to train workers on safety or they failed to prominently post OHSA programs and policies somewhere in the workplace.

If you are planning a new small business, it is very important that you are ready willing and able to show compliance with the OHSA. That means it is essential that your workplace have an established IRS, and that your workers have been properly trained. They should be able to  identify and control hazards, but they should also be aware of their rights under the OHSA. Most of these orders could have been avoided by just being aware of your responsibilities as a new small business owner.

WorkSafeBC Wants You to Shift into Winter Driving Mode

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

winter driving It should come as no surprise that winter is coming to British Columbia, and WorkSafeBC is trying to get people to think about preparing themselves and their vehicles for the season, which brings with it treacherous driving conditions. Based on statistics, winter is simply the most dangerous time of year for all types of drivers. WorkSafeBC the notes that the number of injury or fatal crashes that are caused by driving too fast for conditions present tends to spike in December every year.

To back this up, WorkSafeBC said that every area of the province sees roughly the same type of spike. For example, Vancouver Island sees these types of crashes increase by 32% in December when compared to October, while the Southern Interior region sees the number of such crashes triple, from 26 in October to 97 in December. Province-wide, there are usually about 121 crashes in October, compared to 234 crashes in December.

Recently, the Winter Driving Safety Alliance conducted a survey throughout British Columbia, asking respondents about their driving habits during the winter. Not surprisingly, 57 per cent consider themselves to be good drivers, and cited other drivers as the big problem.

Because it’s an issue of life or death, WorkSafeBC believes everyone should be preparing themselves for driving in winter, and they should also want to keep their vehicle in good shape. To help drivers do that, WorkSafeBC has tips to help everyone prepare for winter driving on their Shift Into Winter website.  And for the first time, the website has included an Employer Tool Kit, which is designed as a resource for employers and supervisors of workers who have to drive as part of their job. With the tool kit, employers and supervisors will have step-by-step assistance in helping them assess and plan for dealing with winter driving hazards and quite possibly reduce the number of traffic accidents.

Every year, on average, 23 workers are killed and nearly 1,300 others suffer injuries that cause them to miss time from work each year because of work-related motor vehicle incidents (MVIs). Unfortunately, most of those come during the winter months. The Shift Into Winter road safety campaign hopes to build awareness and educate drivers about winter weather-related driving hazards and how to avoid them.

Ontario Industrial Workplace Hazards Blitz

Monday, October 27th, 2014

MOLFrom November 3 through December 14, 2014 the Ontario Ministry of Labour will send inspectors into industrial sector workplaces throughout the province, including manufacturing, chemical, and automotive plants, as part of a safety blitz designed to alleviate hazards that could lead to serious injuries at those workplaces.

As part of the blitz, inspectors will focus on making sure machines are properly guarded, locked out or blocked, as appropriate. By making sure machine guards are in place, workers are prevented from having access to the machine’s moving parts. Lockout prevents machines from starting up unexpectedly at the worst possible time, while blocking prevents a machine from moving or falling during maintenance or repair.

In addition to machine hazards, inspectors will also be checking to make sure that all workplaces have a strong internal responsibility system in place, and that such a system promotes compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations. They will also check to make sure that workers are protected from exposure to chemicals that could cause disease and that those workers who have to work in situations that require repetitive motions and awkward postures are properly protected from musculoskeletal and other disorders.

In 2013, 17 per cent of the compliance orders issued by Ministry of Labour inspectors were issued for violations having to do with machine guarding and lockouts in industrial workplaces. In 2012, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board received lost-time injury (LTI) claims from 1,976 workers who were caught in or compressed by equipment; 305 workers with serious abrasions caused by vibrations or friction, and 367 workers who had body parts amputated.

Report: Ontario Mall Collapse Caused by Decades of Neglect

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Hardhat Safety manualAccording to a scathing judicial inquiry report, the deadly cave-in of the Algo Centre Mall in northern Ontario two years ago was the result of neglect, incompetence, dishonesty and greed by the long parade of owners, engineers and municipal officials over several decades.  The scathing report says that everyone involved simply allowed the structure of the mall to rust to the point of collapse. While some of the failures were minor, others were major, and they all demonstrated a startling level of “apathy, neglect and indifference through mediocrity, ineptitude and incompetence, to outright greed, obfuscation and duplicity.”

In June 2012, the mall’s rooftop parking deck on the mall collapsed into the mall after decades of water and salt penetration finally took their toll. Two people were trapped in the rubble and died; 74-year-old Doloris Perizzolo and 37-year-old Lucie Aylwin, while 19 others were injured. According to the report, the events that led to the disaster began to happen back in the 1970s, when the mall was in its planning stages. They note that putting parking on the roof was a bad idea in and of itself, but that it was made worse by a defective roof design and the use of untested materials in the creation of the parking lot.

Over its 33 year existence, the building received extensive scrutiny from architects and engineers, leading to nearly 30 visits, inspections and reports from various experts and agencies. Unfortunately, none of these resulted in any sort of fix for the leaks that were so common that many referred to the centre as the “Algo Falls.” Experts seemed to ignore the “moral and ethical foundation” of their vocation, as well as failed to realize the effect of the rust on the integrity of the mall’s structural steel, according to the report, which suggests that engineers performed inspections that were “so cursory and incomplete as to be essentially meaningless,” and that they were more concerned with making the clients happy than protecting the public.

The report was especially harsh in its criticism of Robert (Bob) Wood, the last engineer who signed off on the structural stability of the mall just a few weeks before the collapse, and whose work and conduct were described as “markedly inferior.” Previously, Wood, who is facing criminal charges in connection with the collapse, admitted to falsifying his report to appease the owner of the mall. His inspection report was described as being “was similar to that of a mechanic inspecting a car with a cracked engine block who pronounces the vehicle sound because of its good paint job.” In addition, municipal officials ignored numerous public complaints and warnings regarding falling concrete and large leaks. Even the Ontario Ministry of Labour, which had offices in the mall, was unresponsive to numerous complaints.

The report makes 71 recommendations, include setting minimum maintenance standards for buildings, more inspections with more teeth, and an expanded emergency response capability, even though the one area of praise in the entire report was for the initial local emergency response. The Ontario government has promised a quick review of the recommendations.

Another Wood Mill Explosion in BC

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Wood mill fireThere was another fire and explosion on Thursday, October 9 at a wood pellet plant in northern British Columbia that was the site of another serious explosion two years ago.

This latest explosion and fire happened at about 8 a.m. at the Burns Lake facility, which is owned and operated by Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. and left three mill workers injured. One of the injuries was serious, while the others were referred to as “minor.” Neither the company nor WorkSafeBC provided more details about the injuries.

The fire and explosion started inside a drying machine while it was shut down for maintenance. Investigators for WorkSafeBC refused to speculate as to the exact case, saying it was too early. They did note that the fact that the fire seemed to start inside a piece of equipment does indicate wood dust was not involved.

The company has been under increased scrutiny since 2012, in the wake of two fatal explosions at wood mills in the area involving combustible wood dust. The company has been fined about $49,000 recently for repeat safety violations, after being cited for combustible dust buildup several times in the past year at several of its facilities, including the Burns Lake plant.

The B.C. government issued a report in July, in which it made a number of recommendations for improving investigations, so that evidence collected would better stand up in court, thus making prosecutions easier and more likely. However, WorkSafeBC hasn’t decided to launch a full investigation into the latest fire and explosion., so it’s unknown whether or not those recommendations would come into play

WorkSafeBC Approves New Safety Technology

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Heavy_EquipmentWorkSafeBC recently approved a product called Safe T Punch (STP) for use in British Columbia construction road work beginning this month. This new product has been designed to give workers trapped inside mobile equipment an alternate means of escape, even if the primary escape hatch is not available at the time.

STP is produced in Canada by Punch Systems Inc. While the system is apparently in common use in the United Kingdom and several African countries, it is not yet being used widely in North America. The system consists of a red button that is installed on the window of mobile equipment, especially those used in construction. If a vehicle tips over or rolls, the vehicle’s operator can hit the red button, which will break the glass. In this way, Safe T Punch creates a secondary emergency exit. Because of the product’s design, it can be installed on the outside of a window, as well, which will give rescuers an additional option for reaching equipment operators, even if they are unconscious or incapacitated.

WorkSafeBC has found some limitations to the product. For example, they found that a window that is too thick will not break, no matter how hard the operator hits the Safe T Punch. Also, if STP is installed improperly, it could obscure the operator’s view, which creates another type of hazard. But even with these limitations, WorkSafeBC still approved the product, with several restrictions. For example, the Safe T Punch can only be installed on certain types of safety glass, so that it doesn’t create a secondary hazard, wherein an operator injures himself on broken glass as he tries to escape the cab in an emergency.

WorkSafeBC noted that their approval of the use of STP should not be seen as an endorsement. They’re simply suggesting that STP could be used as a less expensive alternative to retrofitting older equipment with an extra door or hatch, as well as serving as an alternative solution for older cabs that can’t be retrofitted.

The construction industry in British Columbia, including the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association, has applauded the decision by WorkSafeBC, noting that while it won’t be effective in every situation, it is a low-cost alternative that can be used in certain situations to keep machine operator safe.