Archive for the ‘Ministry of Labour’ Category

Nova Scotia Employer Not Guilty

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

legal law justiceAn elevator contractor in Nova Scotia has been found not guilty of occupational health and safety violations. They had been charged for failing to take proper safety precautions for an incident in which an elevator motor weighing more than two tonnes fell onto a construction worker named Joachim Antonio. The accident left the scaffold foreman trapped under the motor, and he was left with a broken femur and a number of serious lacerations.

The accident occurred on March 19, 2013  at the site of the former Citadel Inn in downtown Halifax. Antonio worked for Safway Services Canada, which had contracted Vertical Transport Elevator Consulting Ltd. to provide services related to the elevator construction hoists. After an investigation by provincial safety officials,  Vertical Transport was charged with failing to provide safety precautions under the Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Act. More specifically, The Crown alleged that the company provided inadequate supervision during the installation of the elevator hoists.

For their part, the company denied any responsibility for what happened to Antonio, in part because he wasn’t their employee and they denied that responsibility for even supervising the job. During a five-day trial in April, the court heard that both companies had made several attempts to make sure a Class A mechanic was available at the construction site for the installation and a number of emails, voice mails, and phone records supported that. In the end, Judge Anne Derrick ruled that the Crown had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Vertical Transport was responsible for supervising the job and found the company not guilty.

Cone Zone 2016

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Cone Zone 2016It’s that time of year once again, a time when drivers all over Canada have to be vigilant and be on the lookout for work crews on the road. Last week in Vancouver,  for example, WorkSafeBC, the Vancouver Police Department and the Work Zone Safety Alliance announced the launch of “Cone Zone 2016,” which means that drivers in Vancouver and throughout the province should be prepared for the increase in road maintenance this summer, which means more road workers and therefore a greater need to pay attention while driving.

Of course, the increase in road work also means there will be increased enforcement of traffic laws and Cone Zone rules throughout the city and all of British Columbia. Over the last ten years, 14 roadside workers were killed and another 226 workers were injured and missed time from work as a result of being hit by motor vehicles while they were  working in a Cone Zone.

As part of the effort to prevent motor vehicle accidents in roadside construction areas, as well as to prevent driver frustration, all drivers should always be aware of the possibility of roadside workers. They should always look for work zone signage and traffic control devices such as orange cones at any time of the day or night. That means drivers have to eliminate distractions, including electronic devices like cell phones and GPS devices. They need to stay below the posted Cone Zone speed limit and follow the directions provided by roadside workers.

Last year,  B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act Regulation was amended to include a lot more workers in the “Slow Down, Move Over” legislation, including maintenance and utility workers, land surveyors, animal control workers, garbage collectors and more.  Under the law, drivers are required to reduce their vehicle’s speed whenever they are driving near a vehicle with flashing amber, red or blue lights. If the posted speed limit is above 80 kmh, drivers are required to slow to 70kmh, but if the posted speed is less than 80 kmh, drivers must slow to 40 kmh. In all situations, drivers must increase the space between their vehicle and the work zone whenever it’s safe to do so.

Drivers in BC would be aware that the purpose of “Cone Zones” is to protect roadside workers and drivers. For more tips to help navigate work zones, go to  ConeZoneBC.com.

Mandatory Construction Training Proposal

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

mandatory construction trainingThe Ontario Ministry of Labour has proposed several amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) that, if approved, would require all employers in the construction industry to ensure that all workers complete a mandatory construction hazard awareness training program.

Specifically, the amendments would change the Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training Regulation (O. Reg. 297/13) and they would apply to all employers and workers who engage in work to which the Construction Projects Regulation (O. Reg. 213/91) applies.

Employers would have two possible ways to meet this requirement. One way would be to ensure that all workers successfully complete an approved training program that will be developed by the Ministry’s Chief Prevention Officer (CPO). The other way would involve completion of a similar training program developed by the employer, in consultation with the joint health and safety committee (JHSC), based on the learning outcomes set out in the regulation. Of course, the second approach would only be available to those employers who are required to have a JHSC.

These proposed amendments are in support of the Ministry’s Construction Health and Safety Action Plan, which is being implemented to reduce injuries at construction projects throughout the province. The hope is that the increased training will improve worker awareness of the most common hazards at construction sites and gain greater insight as to how they  may be controlled or eliminated.

Included with the proposed amendments is a two-year transition period, which should give employers ample time to ensure that existing workers have completed the training before the proposed amendments come into force.

The Ministry will be seeking public and stakeholder feedback on these proposed amendments from now until Friday, August 12, 2016. Submissions received during the consultation period will be considered in the final preparation of the proposed amendments and the final training program and provider standards.

Supervisors Fined for OHS Violations

Monday, May 16th, 2016

judgementSupervisors in workplaces throughout Ontario and Canada should be aware that they can also face charges and be fined, individually, for violations of occupational health and safety regulations. It seems as if that is happening more often lately. For example, last week, in an Ontario court,  J.S. Redpath Ltd. and two of its supervisors were found guilty and fined a total of $136,000 for an incident in which two workers were injured by falling rock at the Cochenour Mine in Red Lake.

The incident happened on August 4, 2013, when the two workers were being transported via mechanized raise climber (MRC) up a ventilation raise, which is a vertical opening underground, to the rock face where work was being performed.  Previously, the two workers had been drilling and explosives had been detonated and they were heading back to the face to resume work.

Unfortunately, they only managed to travel about 30 feet up when rocks started to fall onto the MRC, striking both workers. One worker was knocked unconscious, while the other received minor injuries. The conscious worker began to throw items out of the basket they were in as a way to attract the attention of an operator working at the bottom. Within about three hours, other mine personnel were able to rescue the two miners.

 J.S. Redpath Ltd was found guilty of violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) for failing to ensure that the worker who became unconscious had been properly trained to work on the MRC, for failing to ensure that the drilling and blasting area was examined by a supervisor during each work shift and for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to the workers for not ensuring that a supervisor or trainer didn’t observe the crew driving the MRC. For all three offenses, the company was fined a total of $125,000.

The court didn’t stop with the company, however. Philip Parrott was superintendent at the Cochenour mine, while Robert Beldock was the shift supervisor for the workers working in the MRC. Parrott was convicted, as a supervisor, for failing to take the reasonable precaution of conducting job task observations and for failing to ensure that he or another supervisor visited a ventilation raise where drilling and blasting was being carried on during each work shift. For his part, Beldock was also convicted of the latter charge as a supervisor. As a result, Parrott was fined $6,000 and Beldock was fined $5,000.

The decision was reached by Justice of the Peace Danalyn J. MacKinnon after nine days at trial and the fines were imposed in Kenora court on May 12, 2016. In addition to each of those fines, the court also imposed the mandated 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means the company has to pay $156,500, while Parrot will pay $7,500 and Beldock $6,250. That’s a lot to pay for not making sure your workers are safe.

Safety Blitzes Bring Results

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

InspectorThe Ontario Ministry of Labour has stepped up its schedule of enforcement blitzes, probably because they work. This week, the Ministry released statistics for two recent blitzes and the results showed that many workplaces weren’t ready for them going in, but the results made them compliant, which makes everyone safer.

In one blitz, conducted between October 1 to November 30, 2015, Ministry of Labour inspectors visited 967 construction projects and they ended up stopping work more than 200 times to force compliance with safety requirements having to do with the use of heavy equipment at those sites.

In all, during that two-month blitz, inspectors issued a total of 2,277 orders for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), including  268 stop-work orders for a specific piece of equipment, machine, device or process. They also issued 53 stop-work orders for violations of fall protection regulations and 27 for excavation violations. The good news is, as of March of this year, companies have complied with 95 per cent of all the orders issued during the blitz.

At the same time, Ministry inspectors also conducted a mine safety blitz, visiting 78 mining workplaces across Ontario, where they issued a total of 192 orders for OHS violations, including 16 stop-work orders for specific equipment violations, 23 orders for failure to follow the provincial modular training standard and required program guidelines and 153 orders for violations related to hazards involving equipment, protective barriers, safety precautions and ground conditions.

The good news is that employers have addressed 100 per cent of the orders issued during that safety blitz.

In all, they found problems when they inspected, and now, almost all of those problems have been fixed, which means more workplaces are safer for workers.

Toronto Scaffolding Collapse

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

ScaffoldingIn an incident that had the potential to be a major tragedy, seven people, one of them a baby, barely avoided suffering serious injuries on the afternoon of April 18, when scaffolding collapsed and fell into a pile of rubble on the street in Forest Hill, which is one of Toronto’s busiest neighbourhoods. The accident happened at about 2:30 p.m. at the site of a closed Chinese restaurant that is being demolished to make way for a new public transit stop along a new route.

Toronto Police, firefighters and paramedics arrived soon after the collapse and rescued the seven people, who were believed to have been trapped in the remains of the scaffolding. All seven were transported to local hospital with what were only described as “non-life-threatening injuries.”

Police note that one of those who suffered such a close call was an infant. According to police, it’s likely that the baby carriage likely saved the child’s life. Thankfully, the injuries he suffered were described as “quite minor” by police. All of the injured were either close to or inside the scaffolding at the time of the collapse, but it was not immediately known which of the injured were working on the demolition and which were pedestrians just passing by.

After the collapse, investigators from the Toronto Police Department and the Ontario Ministry of Labour swarmed the surrounding neighbourhood to look for clues as to the causes and consequences of the accident. They continue to investigate.

Calgary Worker Knocked into Trench

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

TrenchOn Friday afternoon, April 15, a construction worker was rushed to hospital with possible life-threatening injuries at a worksite near the Coast Plaza Hotel in northeast Calgary, after he was struck by a piece of heavy equipment, causing him to fall into a trench.

Paramedics and rescue crews with the Calgary Fire Department responded to the job site after they received a 911 call at 1:20 p.m. The rescue personnel worked to shore up the trench before pulling the man out and transporting him to hospital.

According to witnesses, the man was apparently struck with the bucket of a track hoe that was located at the job site. Apparently, throughout the ordeal, the victim appeared to be conscious and was apparently moving but it was unclear exactly how badly he was hurt until he arrived at hospital. The man was not identified, but in their reports paramedics said he seemed to be in his 40s.

Alberta occupational health and safety officers were almost immediately called in to investigate and their investigation is ongoing, although no charges have been lain as yet.

Supervisor Pleads Guilty to OHS Violations

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

constructionA supervisor at the construction site of Mississauga’s Sheridan Centre mall has pleaded guilty to violating health and safety regulations. As a result of that guilty plea, he has agreed to pay a $22,000 fine for an incident in which a steel collapse killed a worker,  33-year-old Christopher Crawford, a married father of three from Kitchener, on Jan. 13, 2014.

Crawford who had 13 years’ experience and belonged to the SMWU, was working as a sheet metal worker for Rockwood-based Vixman Construction, at the site of a new Target store at the mall, when the building’s steel frame collapsed, trapping and crushing him beneath the twisted metal. According to court testimony, it is believed that the weight of the decking material placed on the steel structure may have caused the collapse.

The supervisor for Vixman Construction, Fernand Landry, specifically pleaded guilty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to failing to ensure that decking was not placed, left or stored in a location or manner that endangered a worker in the collapse. The $22,000 fine was assessed by Justice of the Peace Kelly Visser in Brampton city court, and a 25 per cent victim fine surcharge was added, as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means he will pay a total of $27,500 for his failure to protect his workers.

Four Occupational Health and Safety Act charges had also been laid against Vixman Construction as an employer, but after the supervisor’s guilty plea, those charges were withdrawn.

Ontario Announces Blitz Schedule

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Ontario Announces Blitz ScheduleLast week, the Ontario Ministry of Labour announced their intention to conduct more than 20 targeted safety blitzes all over the province, beginning in May. Over the next 10 months, through March 2017, safety inspectors and employment standards officers will use these blitzes to inspect all sorts of workplaces, including construction sites, manufacturing plants, mines and retail and food service locations, looking for potential violations of Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, as well as the Employment Standards Act.

According to the news release announcing the blitzes, Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn noted,

“Every worker has the right to work in a healthy, safe, and fair workplace. Targeted blitz programs like these increase awareness, compliance and overall safety among workers and employers throughout the province.”

The first blitzes will begin May 2, and target temporary foreign workers and young workers in a variety of workplaces, including retail and food service locations, but also construction and any other sector known to hire large numbers of such workers. Soon after that, on May 16, they will target fall safety in the construction, mining and industrial sectors, a blitz that will be ongoing through July 15. There is little time to prepare, so you might want to start immediately. The full schedule of safety blitzes can be found here.

These blitzes are considered by the Ministry of Labour to be a significant part of their enforcement strategy to increase compliance with both the Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Since 2005, the Ministry of Labour has recovered more than $144 million in wages and other money owed to employees. In addition, since June 2008, when the blitz strategy started, OHS inspectors have issued more than one million compliance orders for safety issues throughout Ontario.

School Board Fined $250,000

Friday, April 15th, 2016

JusticeAfter the death of a maintenance worker employed by them, the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) has pleaded guilty to violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and penalized with a fine of $250,000.

The accident happened on Jan. 9, 2015, at St. Nicholas Adult High School, which is located on Admiral Avenue in Ottawa, although he worked at several Board schools. On that day, he was tasked with replacing a safety cage on a ceiling light in the school’s gymnasium. He worked alone, and he was provided with a van equipped with a trailer and ramp, as well as a lifting device called a portable aerial device.

When he first arrived at the school, the worker shoveled some snow to clear a path, opened the trailer and lowered the ramp, which was made of wood with a metal plate and was attached to the rear of the trailer, to the ground. The length of the ramp was 7 feet, three inches and the angle was about eight degrees. This is important, because the aerial device’s manual indicated that it should not be rolled down an incline greater than five degrees because of the weight distribution. Predictably, as the aerial device rolled down the ramp, it tipped over and struck the worker, injuring him fatally.

The OCSB pleaded guilty to charges that that failed as an employer to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstance for the protection of a worker. Specifically, they noted, among other things, that; the angle of the ramp was too large; they failed to ensure that all surfaces were free of ice or snow; and they failed to make sure another worker was available to assist.

After the guilty plea was accepted in Ottawa court, Justice of the Peace Jacques Desjardins imposed a fine of $250,000 and also imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means a total cost of $312,500, simply for not making sure a worker was trained properly and kept safe. Investing in safety saves everyone.