Archive for the ‘Ministry of Labour’ Category

Report Demands Better WorkSafeBC Investigations

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

InvestigationAccording to government officials in British Columbia, WorkSafeBC is about to undergo some significant changes with regard to the way it investigates workplace accidents.

Provincial officials released a report last week that took a look at the risks associated with dust at sawmills, based on two sawmill explosions — one in Burns Lake and one in Prince George – that were linked to wood dust. But in light of the fact that both  WorkSafeBC investigations into the blasts were badly botched, to the point that it was impossible to bring criminal charges, they also announced major changes to the investigatory process going forward.

The report includes more than 40 recommendations for future investigations, which the government insisted would be fully implemented. Among the recommendations include splitting the department that handles occupational death and injury investigations into two parts. There will also be increased inspections, a wider range of penalties, and the implementation of tickets and citations, with escalating penalties for repeat violations.

But the biggest change will come with the formation of specialized teams who will be specially trained to work with police and prosecutors. If agency investigators begin an investigation and decide that a prosecution is possible or desired, the original inspectors will hand it over to the team of specialists, who will then obtain the necessary warrants and warn employers of their charter rights. The team will then work directly with criminal justice branch prosecutors and a special constable would be assigned to co-ordinate with police.

These measures come in part because Crown prosecutors were unable to lay charges in connection with either of the two 2012 mill explosions, even though two workers died in each one. This is because of prosecutors’ concerns that most of the evidence collected by WorkSafeBC would be inadmissible.

Saskatchewan’s New Violation Ticketing System

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Saskatchewan FlagSince July 1, when a new measure took effect, employers in Saskatchewan who are found to have violated certain occupational health and safety laws may find themselves being issued a Summary Offence Ticket by a designated Occupational Health Officer.

These tickets, with which Saskatchewan Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety officials hope to spur businesses to improve health and safety practices in the workplace, while at the same time attempting to avoid costly and time-consuming and costly prosecution, carry penalties of between $250 and $1,000, plus victim surcharges, depending on the offence.

Among the 12 possible ticketable offences the two designated Occupational Health Officers will be looking for include; failure to ensure that all workers are equipped with and using personal protective equipment (PPE); failure to ensure that all workers employ fall protection systems at heights of three metres or more; failure to make sure that any opening or hole is properly marked and covered. Each of those tickets could cost someone $1,000, while a ticket for failure to submit a written progress report could cost $600.

Workers should keep in mind that, while most of the tickets will be handed out to employers, contractors and the like, one ticketable offence will apply to workers, and could cost that worker $250. That offence will be for a failure to use PPE, although workers will only be cited once the Occupational Health Officer verifies that the correct PPE has been provided by the employer.

In all cases and for all offences, all tickets will only be issued in those cases where other compliance measures have been used previously and found to be ineffective.

Wasteco and Front-End Loader Operator Fined for Fatal Accident

Monday, April 14th, 2014

FELSouthern Sanitation Inc., operating as Wasteco, has been fined $170,000, and one of its employees has been hit personally with another $6,000 fine for an accident in which a company worker was killed when he was crushed between two vehicles.

The company’s fine came as a result of pleading guilty at Provincial Offices Court on April 1, to failing to ensure that measures and procedures under the law were followed. The employee, Abdul Maneed Malik, was fined after he pled guilty to operating equipment in a manner that may endanger a worker.

The accident that led to the fines happened on April 15, 2013. That day, a worker backed a truck into a drop-off bay at a Wasteco transfer station at the same time Malik was operating a front-end loader in the same drop-off bay, placing waste into a collection area. The truck driver exited his truck and went to the back to attend to his open bin doors, just as Malik reversed the front-end loader, apparently without looking back to make sure the way was clear. The last he had seen of the truck driver was moments earlier, when the driver was still in the cab.

After backing up, Malik heard someone calling for help, then stopped the loader, after which he saw the truck driver lying face down on the ground just behind the truck. He ran to get help, while another worker tried to give the truck driver first aid. Emergency responders arrived soon after, and pronounced the driver dead at the scene.

In addition to the fines, the court also added a 25 percent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means the company is out $212,000 in total, and the driver will have to pay $7,500 out of his own pocket, simply because he failed to look behind him before backing up his front-end loader.

This is another example showing that creating a culture of safety doesn’t cost anyone; it pays.

Worker Loses Fingers, Food Processor Loses $110,000 Fine

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

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Last week, the Ontario Court of Justice hit Maple Leaf Consumer Foods, carrying on business as Maple Leaf Consumer Foods and Cappola Foods, with a $110,000 fine for an accident in which a worker using a meat chopping machine lost several fingers.

According to a report from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, the plant worker was operating a meat chopper, which has a moving blade enclosed in a small cage. When the blade was being operated and the cage was lifted, the blade would slowly come to a stop. While the worker was operating the machine, he noticed that some meat had become stuck in the blade, so he lifted the safety cage and used a hook to try and pull the meat from the blade, which continued to spin. The hook then became caught by the moving blade, which pulled the worker’s hand toward the blade, where his hand come into contact with the blade, which resulted in the loss of several fingers.

After a thorough investigation, the Ministry of Labour charged Maple Leaf Foods with failure, as an employer, to ensure that a moving part of a machine was cleaned only after it had stopped.

The $110,000 fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace David J. Hunt, who also added in the 25 percent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.

That means an easily avoidable accident ended up costing the company a total of $137,500. Compare that to the cost of training workers, and you’ll see what a bargain a safe workplace can be.

Heavy Equipment Theft Ring Busted

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

PoliceOntario Provincial Police (OPP) busted a very sophisticated and specialized theft ring and recovered more than $375,000 worth of heavy equipment.

The Barrie OPP officer was patrolling Hwy. 11 when he noticed some suspicious activity at a business location in an area just north of Barrie on Feb. 5 at 5 a.m., and stopped to investigate. Police nabbed two men and confiscated a mini-excavator, three skid-steers and a backhoe. All of the equipment had been stolen from businesses in surrounding townships over the past four months. In addition the heavy equipment, police also found a riding lawn mower, three ATVs, three generators and an $8,000 trailer.

Police describe the thefts as “made-to-order” and the criminals as “specialists.” The way the scheme worked is, if someone needed a $100,000 backhoe, they put in an order, and the thieves would find one and strip it down. In the case of the backhoe they recovered, even its lights had been removed. The thieves were so skilled, they were able to disable a machine’s GPS and remove the serial numbers, so that the owners may not even realize the machine was gone.

One of the alleged thieves is a 32-year-old Oro-Medonte man who was already on parole. He is still in custody. The second suspect, a 31-year-old man, also from Oro-Medonte, was released pending a future court date. Both men were charged with seven counts of possession of stolen property over $5,000, five counts of possession under $5,000, as well as unauthorized possession and unsafe storage of a firearm.

Labour Ministry Announces Youth Video Contest to Promote Workplace Safety

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

thumbs_upxsmallThe Canadian Ministry of Labour has announced the second annual “It’s Your Job!” video contest, and they are inviting high school students throughout Canada are to be creative in helping spread the word about staying safe on the job. The contest asks those students to shoot an original social media video that effectively brings home just how important it is to work safely.

The contest is designed so that students can participate in a provincial contest, with provincial and territorial winners then becoming eligible for two national contests. In one of them, the winner is chosen by a group of judges, but with the other Canadians can vote for their favourite video to win. At the national finals, the makers of the winning video will receive $2,000, with the second place video getting $1,500, and third place receiving $1,000. Provincial and territorial contest winners will be selected and notified by sometime this coming spring.

The Ministry considers events such as this video contest as crucial to creating a safety culture throughout Canada, as well as a great way to reach young people, who are at a greater risk of being injured on the job. Nearly a quarter of all occupational injuries are incurred by workers between the ages of 15 and 29. In 2011, a total of 68 Canadian workers aged 15 to 29 lost their lives in workplace accidents.

Engineer Faces Criminal Charges In Mall Collapse

Monday, February 10th, 2014

JudgementAs a result of an investigation into the collapse of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake in June 2012 that killed two people, police have laid two counts of criminal negligence causing death and another count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm against professional engineer Robert Wood.

According to police records, Wood was involved in numerous inspections of the building. A judicial inquiry into the mall’s collapse uncovered information indicating that the roof had leaked almost from the beginning, and that many years of water and salt had left the steel support structure severely rusted. Despite this, Wood conducted an inspection and declared the centre structurally sound just before its collapse.

The inquiry revealed a 2011 conversation in which Wood warned a prospective buyer of the mall that the structure had to be fixed or the roof would cave in, and that it would cost $1.5 million to fix. They also found out that a year later, just before the collapse, he told the mall’s owner that the steel supports showed surface rusting, but were otherwise “structurally sound.” Wood’s final inspection report before the collapse, dated May 3, 2012, reported “no visual distress.” He later admitted to making changes to the final report later, at the request of the mall’s owner. Among the changes were the removal of a reference to “ongoing” leakage,” and the removal of several photos showing yellow tarps that were being used to collect water from the roof and a corroded steel beam.

By the time of the altered inspection report and the collapse, however, Wood had already lost his professional engineering licence. That happened in November 2011, after he admitted to misconduct that was unrelated to the mall collapse. He continued to practise, anyway, as a “graduate” engineer and owner of Sault Ste, Marie-based M.R. Wright, with restrictions on what he could do. The mall collapse effectively ended his 40-year career.

In April 2013, Wood was also charged under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act as a professional engineer, for offences relating to giving negligent advice. Under the OH&S Act, the Ministry of Labour is permitted to lay charges against a professional engineer in cases where, “as a result of his or her advice that is given or his or her certification required under this Act that is made negligently or incompetently, a worker is endangered.”

Failing to Maintain Culture of Safety Costs Company $137,500

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

construtionLast week, Process Group Inc. was hit with a fine of $110,000 for a violation of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), after an incident that occurred on October 27, 2010, when a worker was dismantling some equipment at a Windsor General Motors Transmission Plant, and was seriously injured while doing so.

The worker was attempting to decommission the piece of equipment for the company, which supplies engineering, construction and maintenance services to manufacturing plants. In order to gain access to the equipment that was being removed, it was necessary for several workers to remove sections of an overhead conveyor.

When the workers cut and began separating the conveyor section, they started by removing the anchor bolts on the conveyor’s base. When the last bolt was loosened, the conveyor section toppled and hit the worker, breaking several vertebrae in his back and also breaking a leg.

An inspection by the Ministry of Labour found that no blocking had been installed to prevent the collapse or movement of the conveyor section that was being dismantled.

At a trial held November 12, Process Group Inc. was found guilty of “failing as an employer to prevent the collapse or movement of part or all of a piece of equipment that is being dismantled, altered or repaired if its collapse or movement may endanger a worker.”

The sentencing took place on December 2, 2013. The fine of $110,000 was imposed by Ontario Court of Justice of the Peace Michael Hurst. The company was also issued the 25 percent victim surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.

That means failing to train employees to take basic precautions when installing and removing equipment is costing Process Group, Inc.$137,500, not to mention the pain and suffering of the injured worker…. which is certainly a lot more than the cost of basic safety training.

Two New Bills Could Help Ontario Workers, Employers

Monday, December 9th, 2013

NewsTwo bills, numbers 146 and 147, were introduced in the Ontario legislature this past week, and both have a strong potential to have a serious impact Ontario workers and employers should they become law.

Bill 146, which is titled the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, would amend a number of employment law. Among them are the Employment Standards Act (ESA),the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA), and the Labour Relations Act (LRA), among others. Among the most significant proposals in the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act include:

  • The elimination of the ESA $10,000 cap regarding recovery of unpaid wages and increasing the limitation period of recovery to two years from the current six or 12 months for employees. By doing this, the government hopes to keep a great many disputes out of the court system, saving workers and businesses time and money.
  • Requiring all Ontario employers to make available printed material containing information about ESA rights in both French and English and to make available the same information in 23 other languages upon request.
  • Making temporary employment agencies and clients liable for violations of employment standards, which the government hopes will reduce the number of instances in which employees are hired just to work under unsafe conditions.
  • Extension of OHSA coverage to unpaid learning workers such as co-op students, trainees and interns.

Bill 147, which is titled, “An Act to amend the Human Rights Code with respect to the awarding of costs of proceedings,” would amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to give the Human Rights Tribunal the power to award legal costs against an unsuccessful party in matters before the Tribunal. This could be huge, because employers currently bear their own legal costs, even when they successfully defend such a claim.

The Ministry of Labour says it’s attempting to stand up for workers and also increase fairness for businesses with these proposed bills.

Nova Scotia Auditor: Workplace Safety Needs More Follow Up

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

According to provincial auditors, Nova Scotia employers have a lot of work to do if they’re going to  make provincial workers safer, especially when it comes to following up on violations. Auditor general Jacques Lapointe noted that the Labour Department could do a better job of prevention by placing greater focus on enforcing work order compliance.

InspectorThe auditors discovered that, during the period between April 2012 and March 2013, a total of 10 summary offence tickets had been issued in 1,228 cases where workplaces failed to comply with safety orders in a timely manner.

The Labour Department did respond to the report, claiming that 95 percent of employers eventually complied with the orders. They also noted that they used administrative penalties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act as a method for forcing employers to comply with safety orders. They did admit, however, that they had to be more consistent when it comes to enforcing the rules.

LaPointe also noted that only 27 of the 100 workplaces with the worst safety records were targeted for inspections during the period examined by auditors. According to the report, the current system does identify higher-risk workplaces, but then it fails to create a specific inspection plan for the year. Because of this tendency, the auditors’ report notes that many of the more dangerous workplaces in Nova Scotia fail to receive proper attention.

In addition to the auditors, a number of labour groups have also weighed in, demanding that the province hire more inspectors and pay more attention to the most dangerous workplaces. They note that, at current staffing levels, inspectors are stretched thin, and it’s not possible to do after-accident inspections and also perform pre-emptive inspections.