Archive for the ‘Ministry of Labour’ Category

Construction Fire Brings Multiple MOL Charges

Monday, September 15th, 2014

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has laid 22 charges against Jay Patry Enterprises Inc., in relation to an incident in Kingston that led to a fire that left a construction worker in hospital with burns, and required a dramatic rescue by the military.

The incident occurred on Dec. 17, 2013, when crane operator Adam Jastrzebski became stranded on top of a crane at the centre of a fire that had engulfed and destroyed a five-storey apartment building that was under construction.

The 68-year-old crane operator suffered burns to most of his body, including his back, hands and legs. The intensity of the fire was enormous, and it forced him to crawl along the boom of the crane, before a military helicopter picked him up and was able to airlift him to safety.

The heat of the fire caused windows in nearby buildings to blow out and several buildings, including a hotel and apartment building, were destroyed. Several nearby vehicles caught fire and more than 150 people were forced from nearby homes.

Among the charges lain by the Ministry of Labour include 11 charges related to fire safety precautions, and 11 others resulting from the company’s failure to cooperate with the ministry investigation.

In addition to those charges, Stelmach Property Management Inc. was also charged with two counts of failing to comply with requirements issued by a Ministry of Labour inspector. Ten other charges were laid against three individuals for providing a Ministry of Labour inspector with false information.

The first court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 30.

Ontario MOL Blitz Results Show Noncompliance

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

MOLThe Ontario Ministry of Labour has released the results of a safety blitz their inspectors conducted between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014, and the results are not promising for new small businesses.

The MOL inspectors visited new small industrial businesses with fewer than 20 workers, including wood and metal fabrication facilities, industrial services and vehicle manufacturers and service facilities. The results demonstrated that a number of them tend to violate even the most basic legal requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, including something as simple as posting a copy of the OHS prominently in the workplace.

Besides failing to post a copy of the OHS Act, some of the other more common compliance orders given by MOL inspectors during the blitz included a failure to prepare a workplace health and safety policy or to maintain a health and safety program. Many failed to appoint a worker health and safety representative and to have that representative conduct regular health and safety inspections. And many failed to train workers on keeping worksites safe.

This particular enforcement initiative promises to be repeated during the 2014-2015 fiscal year. Each MOL inspector plans to examine between four and eight small businesses that have not been previously inspected by the ministry or registered with WSIB. Therefore, everyone who is new to the business community should be prepared for such a visit, and not just assume that the MOL will just ignore them for the first year or two.

 

Ontario ESA Blitz

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Construction_WorkerBeginning in September, and running through November 2014, the Ontario Ministry of Labour plans to conduct a blitz of employers who are known to hire a large number of vulnerable workers, to evaluate their level of compliance with the Employment Standards Act (ESA) within the province.

For purposes of the ESA, Ontario defines “vulnerable workers” to be those who work in industries with a record of rights violations, and who may lack the resources and ability to understand their rights as workers. This can include young workers, temporary foreign workers, especially those whose first language is not English or French, and newcomers to Canada.

The overall goal of this group of inspections is to ensure compliance, but they also hope to further educate employers with regard to their obligations under the law.

The province conducted a similar blitz between May and August of 2013. For that blitz, inspectors took a look at a variety of workplaces, including warehouses, manufacturing and distribution sites and construction sites. As part of the current inspection blitz, an employment standards officer will not only take whatever necessary enforcement action is needed, but they will also attempt to educate the employer about the ESA and their obligations under it. If they find a violation during an inspection, they could issue compliance orders, issued tickets or, if the violation is serious enough, initiate a prosecution under the Provincial Offences Act.

When compared to the rest of the workforce, vulnerable workers experience greater exposure to hazardous working conditions, and are at greater risk of a violation of their employment rights. From April 2013 through March 2014, the Ministry of Labour  conducted more than 2,700 employment standards or inspections, and recovered more than $3.1 million in lost wages alone.

 

Company Fined for Worker Injury

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

thermoforming machineBrampton-based QBD Cooling Systems Inc., which manufactures commercial refrigerators, was fined $65,000 last week, for an incident in which a worker was injured by a machine at one of its plants.

The incident that led to the fine occurred on March 25, 2013, as a worker was making sure a new mold was properly aligned in a thermoforming machine. That machine fabricates a part by heating a sheet of plastic and pressing it against the mold. The thermoforming machine was enclosed by a frame, which was equipped with access gates at the front of the machine and on each side. Each gate contains a sensor that can determine whether the gate is in an open or closed position. If any gate is not properly closed, the machine will not operate.

The front gate allowed for the worker to fully enter the machine at the operation point. However, the safety gates were not designed to detect the presence of a worker inside the operating portion of the machine. At some point, the worker entered the machine via the front gate while the thermoforming machine was powered on. The worker closed the safety gate, so as to enable machine motion, while another worker stood at the control station to control the machine according to instructions from the worker inside the machine. As the worker stood inside the machine, a clamp from above him began to move and clamp down on him. As a result of this, the worker suffered serious bruising, bone injuries and organ injuries.

An Ontario Ministry of Labour investigation was conducted. The ministry determined that, by law, the motion of any machine that could potentially endanger a worker while repairing or maintaining a machine must be stopped and all potentially dangerous parts must be blocked to prevent movement.

QBD Cooling Systems Inc. pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that a part of the machine was stopped and blocked to prevent movement. Justice of the Peace Richard Quon then imposed a fine of $65,000, plus a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That’s a total of $81,250 for not making sure a machine was safely locked down for a worker. Workplace safety doesn’t cost, it pays.

Charges Filed After Worker Fatally Injured

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has lain three charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) against Ingredion Canada for an incident at the company’s Port Colborne plant last year, in which a worker was fatally injured.

The charges came after an eight-month investigation by the Ministry that was launched when a 28-year-old worker, Dan Gilmore, became crushed between a railcar and a steel beam while working at the facility on Nov. 8, 2013, and died from his injuries at Hamilton General Hospital 10 days later.

According to the Ministry of Labour report, while Gilmore was standing on the fixed ladder of a moving railcar he was hit by a stationary post. At first, his injuries were thought to be non-life-threatening, but they turned out to be more serious than that.

Two of the OHSA charges against the company have to do with their failure to ensure that measures and procedures outlined in the Act had been carried out at the workplace. According to the ministry, there was insufficient clearance between the moving railcars and the loading platform’s stationary posts, which constitute a hazard to the safety of workers in the area. The third charge stems from the fact that the company failed to provide Gilmore with sufficient information, instruction and supervision that would protect him from the hazard of riding rail cars inside of a building with close clearances.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, each conviction could result in penalties of as much as $25,000 in fines and as much as 12 months imprisonment for an individual, and a fine of up to $500,000 for a corporation. Ingredion will make its first court appearance Sept. 12 at 9 a.m. in St. Catharines.

Alberta Announces Sand and Gravel Safety Blitz

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

gravel pitAfter two incidents that resulted in particularly grisly worker fatalities in the month of July, officials with Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) have announced that they will be sending out officers to inspect sand and gravel crushing worksites throughout the province.

This will be the second year in a row that OHS has conducted a safety blitz among these types of businesses. During last year’s campaign, OHS inspectors took a look at 64 sand and gravel crushing worksites over the course of eight weeks. During that campaign, the most common violation found concerned inadequate equipment guards, which bothered OHS officials very much.

This year’s campaign features a twist, because the law has changed since the last blitz. OHS officers can now write tickets on-the-spot for specific violations. These tickets could cost as much as $500, and can be written to either employers or workers. In addition, OHS inspectors can issue administrative penalties to those employers they determine do not take workplace health and safety seriously.

The province says it’s trying to determine whether the industry still needs to improve its health and safety records even further. While they are hopeful, the recent tragedies that occurred at sending gravel sites cast serious doubt on those hopes.

Specifically, OHS officers will be looking for a number of things, such as worksites that do not have proper safeguards in place, especially guarding on gravel conveyors; workers who are not wearing personal protective equipment; workers operating equipment improperly; workers operating equipment without the necessary certifications and; employers who have failed to address worksite hazards.

As noted, there were two accidents in which workers were killed while operating crushers, as they worked on the conveyors. One of these fatalities was a 15-year-old worker who was apparently attempting to clear a jam in a gravel crusher that he was operating. At the time of the accident, there are reports that no supervisor was present, and that the young worker was still being trained. That fatality has led to calls for stricter child labor laws in the province.

New Policies on Wood Dust Safety in B.C.

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

WorkSafeBC has issued new policies that will seek to lay out what they consider to be reasonable steps for employers, workers and supervisors to take with regard to the hazards of combustible wood dust. According to WorkSafeBC, the employer policy will apply to sawmills and wood product manufacturing facilities according to a classification system detailed in that policy. The new policies will become effective September 1, 2014, although a resource tool box and draft OHS Guideline will be posted on the WorkSafeBC website by August 15, 2014.

The new policies come after the agency released the results of a fourth round of sawmill inspections this past spring, between April and June, WorkSafeBC continued to issue stop work orders and citations to those sites that failed wood-dust inspections. These citations happened more than two years after two fatal sawmill explosions.

During this latest group of inspections, the agency looked at 82 mills in all, and cited 18 per cent of them for such problems as insufficient ventilation, dust accumulations that were above the standard considered safe, less than adequate dust control programs or the use of high-pressure air to move dust. They cited another 20 per cent of the mills for violations they considered less serious, including inadequate dust inspections and failure to train workers properly to work around wood dust.

While the numbers seem high, given the seriousness of the explosions and fires that occurred a little more than two years ago and the massive fines that have been handed out in recent months, they are actually a significant improvement from the last round of inspections, which saw a 42 per cent failure rate for serious infractions. While mills are receiving fewer citations for failure to clean their main areas, WorkSafeBC is continuing to issue orders to do a better job of cleaning wood dust from secondary rooms and buildings, and hard-to-reach areas, such as roof beams.

Conditions were so bad at some mills, the agency issued some stop-work orders during this latest round of inspections. WorkSafeBC only issues stop-work orders in situations they consider to represent an imminent risk that could result in severe injury or death to a worker.

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.”