Archive for the ‘Ministry of Labour’ Category

Young People in Newfoundland & Labrador Urged to Become Safety Leaders

Friday, March 27th, 2015

EducationLast week, Canada’s Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, the Honourable Dr. K. Kellie Leitch spoke to students at the College of the North Atlantic about the necessity of educating and empowering young people.

Many of the students who listened to the speech are hoping to one day become health and safety professionals, and the Minister wants young people to feel empowered to become workplace health and safety experts, so as to protect themselves while they are on the job.

After the speech, the Minister held a meeting with a number of students, where she asked their views on the challenges young workers face with regard to occupational health and safety, especially with regard to their lack of experience, their fear of speaking up, and even the importance of eliminating the stigma that surrounds workplace mental health issues.

All of these issues are important, from a health and safety standpoint. While the injury rate among workers aged 15-24 years in federally regulated workplaces declined by about 8 per cent per year between 2005 and 2011, workers in that age group were still more likely to be injured on the job than all other workers. In 2013, more than 30,000 workers in that age group were injured seriously enough to require time off.

If They Work on Your Site, You’re the Employer

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

3d human at a stop poseIt’s worth remembering that, in Ontario and elsewhere, the definition of the term “employer” is much broader now than it was previously, and a recent guilty plea and significant fine should serve as a sobering reminder of the change.

In the recent case, the company in question, Marmora Freezing Corporation, pleaded guilty for its failure “as an employer to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.” The charge was pursuant to section 25(2)(h) of the OHSA. More specifically, the company admitted to its failure to make sure no pedestrians were present in an area with bad lighting and terrible sight-lines.

They did this, despite the fact that the worker who was hurt and eventually killed were security guards that were placed there by a temporary placement agency.

The accident that led to the charges occurred on December 13, 2011, when one of the security guards reported for duty on a shift that begin at midnight and immediately left the building for a smoke in the smoking area, which happened to be along the travel way outside of the building. One his way there, however, a car driven by another worker hit him and knocked him to the ground before leaving the scene. Right after that, a tractor/trailer reversed down the travel way, catching the fallen worker by the trailer’s mud flap and pushing him along the travel way nearly 100 metres to his death.

An Ontario Ministry of Labour investigation noted that the security guard was dressed in dark clothing, with no light or reflective components, and that there were no barriers in place to protect pedestrians from vehicles in the travel way. According to a Ministry ergonomist, who tested the visibility of surroundings, any driver would have had sight-line difficulties in the area, and that lighting was inadequate for ensuring the visibility of pedestrians.

As a result of the guilty plea, Marmora Freezing Corporation was hit with a fine of $150,000, and they were also assessed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That brings the total paid by the company to $187,500. In part, this is because companies that employ temporary workers are considered the “employer” for OHSA purposes in most cases.

Saskatchewan Construction Company Guilty of OHSA “Flagrant Disregard”

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

gavelAlthough Thue Construction Company attempted to blame a fall on the unlaced boots he was wearing, a Saskatchewan court has found the company guilty of five violations of the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act for an accident in which an 18-year-old worker, Jacob Ulmer, fell at least 20 feet and suffered serious injuries, including a broken wrist and two broken vertebrae.

It was Ulmer’s first day on the job, and had been working for about 6 or 7 hours when he was hurt. He had been assigned to work on roof trusses that were 20 to 25 feet high, but he had not been provided with fall protection equipment, and he had received no training at the time of the fall.

The owners of Thue Construction argued in court that Ulmer was an independent contractor, and not their employee, but the court rejected that argument, especially when they found out the owner’s son was Ulmer’s direct supervisor. They made note of a number of other reasons he was obviously an employee, such as the fact that Ulmer considered himself an employee, that no one had suggested that he was a contractor, and that the company had set aside money to pay him.

Not only did the company not protect Ulmer from the hazards of working at heights, they also failed to report the accident to Saskatchewan Occupational Health and Safety, who testified that they had received notice from Worker’s Compensation. For that the company was convicted of failing to report an accident to OHS in which a worker is in a hospital for 72 hours or more.

In addition, Thue Construction was convicted of failing to train the worker, failing to provide proper fall protection equipment and headgear, as well as failing to provide competent supervision. The court also noted that the company’s argument that Ulmer’s boots were untied was irrelevant, because it was the company’s duty to provide proper supervision, and to ensure proper safety procedures were followed. If they had done everything they were supposed to do, then the worker’s untied shoe may have mattered. But as such, it didn’t.

Ontario Could Start Regulating Private Safety Courses

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

FirefighterFollowing the tragic death of a firefighting student during a training exercise back on Feb. 8, the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) is now looking into the idea of regulating private companies that provide safety courses to firefighters and other first responders. Currently, companies that offer specialized courses that are not considered mandatory are under no government oversight, and there are no requirements for them to follow best practices established for firefighters.

Some in the Ontario government have called for regulation to make sure the firefighters taking such courses aren’t putting themselves at risk unnecessarily. Based on that, the MTCU is currently reviewing the Private Career Colleges Act, which regulates vocational training, and plans to propose amendments this fall to include private safety courses.

The Feb. 8 incident that cost 30-year-old Adam Brunt his life happened when he became trapped under some ice during a rescue exercise in Hanover. According to people who knew him, Brunt was taking the course in the hope of improving his job prospects after completing his firefighting program.

The Ministry of Labour is investigating the incident. Interestingly, the course that led to the death was run by Herschel Rescue Training Systems, which is owned by Terry Harrison, who was acquitted of charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act in an incident in 2010 that led to the training death of a volunteer firefighter near Sarnia. In that case, Harrison claimed he took part in that exercise, but did not lead it, and the judge ruled that since he was not the incident commander for the exercise, he could not be held responsible for the firefighters’ safety.

Saskatchewan Labour Ministry Orders More Random Inspections

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

InvestigatorOn March 4, Saskatchewan’s Labour Relations and Workplace Safety ministry ordered their Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) department to shift gears and increase the number of random inspections of work sites around the province. This order came after receiving a report that OHS had planned to once again reduce the number of random inspections and focus most of their efforts on the 62 businesses in the province with the highest injury rates.

When the Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety, Don Morgan, saw that report, he decided to step in and gave OHS the new orders. He said it seemed like a better strategy to make sure employers and the public knew OHS was out there and that they could show up anywhere at any time.

OHS started the highly focused strategy back in October 2013, when they first decided to scale back the number of random worksite inspections to focus their efforts on those worksites with high injury rates. At the time, Morgan approved of the more targeted approach and said it was working. However, he also believes they went too far in reducing the number of random inspections, because he sees the spectre of random inspections as an important tool for raising awareness among the public. He noted that telling OHS inspectors where to focus their investigations is much like telling police to stop only certain people. It may help with the numbers but it doesn’t make workers safer.

It didn’t help that the move away from random inspections drew widespread criticism, which Morgan decided was warranted, and worthy of a response, so he has ordered OHS to create a more balanced approach, with a mix of targeted and random inspections.

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.