Archive for the ‘Ministry of Labour’ Category

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.

WorkSafeBC Campaign Hopes to Stop the Falls

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Stop the FallsWorkSafeBC has begun a campaign designed to reduce the number of workers who are injured due to falls from heights. According to the agency’s recently published 2013 Statistics, between 2004 and 2013, there were 22,610 serious injuries and 92 worker deaths due to falls from height, with most of those occurring within the construction industry. In fact, one out of every four claims made in the construction industry are related to falls, and they represent the most frequent and costly incidents in that particular industry.

The construction workers most commonly injured in falls from height include labourers, roofers and carpenters, with the most common falls coming from ladders or scaffolding or from a roof. The most common reasons for these falls, as cited in the statistical survey, include companies attempting to you’llsave more time and money, a lack of leadership and, of course, a lack of proper training. Other factors WorkSafeBC cites in their research include an overall failure on the part of many companies to create a culture of safety, which results in an increased risk due to peer pressure and the development of poor work habits.

The new campaign attempts to address all of the above, and includes a variety of new resources designed to increase awareness of the hazards that all workers face, and to encourage employers to create a stronger safety culture and better train workers to protect themselves. The materials include a number of hardhat stickers, posters and signage to remind both employers and workers that;

Focusing on safety won’t make your crew look down on you. Falling will. Speak up for safety.”

Runaway Truck on Set of TV Show Claims Worker

Friday, September 26th, 2014

WarningOn Monday night, September 15, a terrible accident involving a runaway truck on the set of the science fiction TV series Falling Skies, which is filmed in Burnaby, British Columbia, just outside Vancouver, claimed the life of Amrik Singh Gill, a 59-year-old security guard.

According to WorkSafeBC, the accident happened when an unattended five-ton truck that was parked on a 6% slope suddenly began to roll backward down a hill, pinning the security guard against a tree. At the time of the accident, the tailgate of the truck was down, so that workers could offload equipment in preparation for the next day’s shoot. as a result, Gill was caught between the tailgate and the tree and was seriously injured as result.

Immediately after the accident, Gill was transported to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, B.C., where they tried to save him. However, he was pronounced dead not long after arrival.

Production on the science fiction tv show was shut down for the next two days. The details of the accident are under investigation by a number of agencies, including WorkSafeBC, the BC Workers’ Compensation Board, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, all of whom are looking at, among other things, the mechanical condition of the truck caused the accident, and why the truck was unattended at the time of the accident. They will be looking closely at issues regarding supervision and training for the crew was working on the truck.

Get Ready for Ontario MOL Materials Handling Safety Blitz

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

InvestigatorThe latest inspection blitz by the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) is currently underway, and you should make sure your workplace is ready for it.

The current blitz began on September 15. The focus of this one will be hazards associated with materials handling, including storage, loading and unloading, and the movement of goods throughout the workplace. Inspectors from the MOL will be making visits to a number of factories, plants and other workplaces within the industrial sector, in order to make sure that employers are taking proper precautions to make sure workers are as safe as possible while handling supplies and materials.

In particular, MOL inspectors will be taking a look at the condition of lift trucks, forklifts and other lifting devices, to make sure the machines are not carrying more than their rating allows, and to make sure that all such equipment is in good working order and well-maintained, and that operators are qualified and properly trained and supervised while operating equipment or handling materials.

Inspectors will also be taking a close look at whether or not workers are being provided with safe and secure access to work areas, including making sure that workers don’t have to take unreasonable risk to get into the workplace, and that there are no obstacles to access. They will also make sure that each workplace has a fall protection plan, and that all workers are able to perform their tasks safely, while wearing appropriate fall protection equipment.

In addition to making sure workers are safe in their daily tasks, MOL inspectors will also work to make sure that all materials and supplies in the workplace are being stored in a safe and secure manner.  this particular blitz will continue through October 26, 2014, so if you haven’t been targeted yet, there’s still plenty of time to get your workplace ready.

Young Alberta Workers Killed in Saskatchewan Accident

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

hardhatTwo young workers from Alberta have been killed in a horrible workplace accident in Fox Valley, Saskatchewan, which is located nearly 40 km east of the Alberta/Saskatchewan boundary.

The accident occurred last week, as a work crew of three men were working on a sewer line, and two of them fell about four metres into sewer lines. The falls were then followed by a partial collapse of the sewer line.

When they arrived, first responders and rescue workers were overwhelmed by noxious fumes, but they were eventually able to pull one of the workers, a 25-year-old man, to the surface. He was then taken to Maple Creek Hospital, where he was pronounced dead soon after.

Not long after that, a local farmer showed up and brought equipment that allowed rescue workers to pull the second victim out. The 24-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police withheld the names of both workers, and simply gave their age and reported that both men were from Calgary. Autopsies were conducted and the Office of the Chief Coroner continues to investigate. in addition to that investigation, Saskatchewan Occupational Health and Safety is also conducting a workplace safety investigation.

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.