Archive for the ‘OHS’ Category

Crane Company Fined $120,000

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Crane SafetyAfter a trial in the Provincial Offences Court at the Ontario Court of  Justice in Sarnia, Sterling Crane Division of Procrane Inc., was convicted of violations of the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act, resulting in penalties of $120,000 as a result of an incident in which a worker was struck by part of a crane and suffered permanent injuries.

The accident happened at the Sterling Crane yard located in Corunna, Ontario on May 7, 2012. However,  the day before the accident, two workers for Sterling Crane stowed a jib alongside the boom of an 1100 National Crane, which is a boom-type truck owned by Sterling Crane. On the day of the accident, a Sterling Crane employee was operating this boom truck at the Imperial Oil Sun Junction station in Sarnia, Ontario. As he was in the driver’s station attempting to lift the boom of the crane, the jib that had been attached to the crane’s boom the day before fell and struck a worker, who suffered critical injuries that have since become permanent injuries.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour conducted an investigation and determined that the jib had not been stored properly and had created a hazard. They subsequently charged Sterling Crane with failing to provide information, instruction and/or supervision to its workers to ensure that the jib was stowed on the boom properly and in accordance with the operating manual issued by the manufacturer. That is a violation of OHS rules. After the trial, a fine of $120,000 was slapped on Sterling Crane by Justice of the Peace Susan Whelan, who also imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.  That means this violation will cost this company a total of $150,000, simply because they failed to train workers to follow instructions.

Research Shows OHS Inspections Help

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

researcherA report published in a major journal concluded that workplace inspections by government agencies and the orders they write do serve as a motivator when it comes to encouraging employers to improve workplace safety standards in most workplaces.

The report, which was based on research conducted by the Toronto-based Institute for Work & Health (IWH) and promoted last week, was published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine and involves a thorough examination of more than 40 previous studies on the relative effectiveness of enforcement of occupational health and safety regulations. One of the conclusions they made was that when a workplace safety inspector imposes an order on an employer for a workplace, the usual result is a safer workplace in the future. Conversely, when an inspector mentions a problem and doesn’t issue an order, there seems to be no impact.

The research also concluded that workplace safety campaigns do work to increase awareness and to help reduce the frequency of workplace accidents. In particular, they noted the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s campaign in recent years, which was geared to the construction industry,  to raise awareness of the risks of working at height. They suggested that the evidence showed that the campaign was very effective at increasing awareness among construction workers.

According to IWH, this research project was prompted by a longstanding debate over whether or not government workplace safety efforts are even effective. Their research included previous studies going back to 1990 and what they found was that, over time, occupational safety campaigns and agencies do have a positive effect. Researchers concluded that leaving occupational safety up to the companies themselves is not an option. In Ontario, for example, they found that the added expense of penalties for OHS violations did serve as a significant deterrent for further violations, but so were orders that did not include a penalty.

IWH noted that the importance of regulators in the field can’t be overstated. In Ontario alone, 350 Ministry of Labour inspectors conduct about 80,000 field visits every year, resulting in 140,000 orders. They determined that all orders were important because they serve to make more workplaces safer. No company wants to be seen in a negative light when it comes to workplace safety or anything else, so they do tend to respond to an order.

Is Social Media Part of the Workplace?

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

social mediaWhile many seemed to not notice, a recent Ontario labour arbitration award involving the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) should be raising concerns because it essentially considers social media to be part of an employee’s “workplace” when it comes to promises by an employer to protect workers from discrimination and harassment.

The issue involved some posts from customers and the public on the TTC Twitter account.  TTC had set up the account in February 2012 as a way to  respond to passengers’ questions and concerns by way of tweets. Because of this, the TTC  Twitter account to included exchanges between the company and the public and included public responses by TTC to customer complaints about alleged behaviour by its workers while on duty. Because of this, in April 2013, the union representing TTC workers filed a grievance against the TTC seeking a shutdown of the TTC Twitter account.

According to evidence presented during the arbitration hearing, as of late January 2015, the TTC Twitter account had around 16,000 followers and had posted more than 82,000 tweets, about 1,500 of which the union found problematic, in that they seemed to either breach workers’ privacy or affected their safety in the workplace.

According to the arbitrator, a combination of factors, including the Ontario Human Rights Code (HRC), the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) as well as portions of the relevant collective agreement, all TTC workers are entitled to a workplace free from discrimination and harassment. Because of the nature of the Twitter account, the arbitrator ruled that the account could be considered “part of the workplace for purposes of determining whether the HRC, the [collective] agreement, and TTC policies [were] contravened as a result of harassment.”

What that means is, employers who attempt to use social media accounts to connect with customers or the public at large should consider that social media platform to be part of the workplace, which means all workplace regulations will apply. That means the development of social media policies that are consistent and which the company and workers must all follow, for the safety of everyone.

New OHS Rules in Ontario

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

WarningAs many are aware, Bill 132, which amends the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to redefine workplace harassment, became law on March 8, 2016, which means it is due to take effect very soon. In fact, Ontario employers should be aware that Sept. 8, 2016, is the day when they will have a lot more to deal with when it comes to making the workplace a safe space.

Bill 132 broadens the definition of workplace harassment to specifically include sexual harassment, but there is a lot more to it than that. The new law also requires that all employers implement policies and programs dealing with workplace harassment and that they investigate all incidents thoroughly.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has released guidance that is designed to assist employers wade through all of these new and sometimes complex obligations. This Code of Practice is made up of four parts that identify the measures employers may adopt to meet their OHSA  obligations with regard to workplace harassment.

It is not mandatory to adopt any or all parts of the Code of Practice and, in fact, some of the practices set out in the code go a little bit beyond the employer’s obligations under the OHSA. As the Ministry of Labour said in a statement, “The Code of Practice is just one way in which employers can meet the legal requirements regarding workplace harassment.”  It is, however, an excellent guideline. In addition, the Code of Practice provides employers with a template for a workplace harassment policy, program, and investigation plan. These could be very helpful, given that the new workplace harassment guidelines will essentially take effect on Sept. 8, 2016, which is next week.

Saskatchewan OHS Controversy?

Monday, August 29th, 2016

investigatorIt started when the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour released a statement in which they complained about a recent uptick in the number of workplace accidents recently, including two deaths this month alone, and they suggested that government cutbacks may be to blame. They claimed that, while the  workforce has grown significantly in the province in recent years, the number of inspectors has lagged behind somewhat. More specifically, they noted that the province had more than 50 workplace inspectors just two years ago, but they claim that the government’s website lists only 27 inspectors. For their part, the Saskatchewan government released their own statement on the subject. In it, they said that they currently have 55 inspectors in place, not 27. They also noted, quite pointedly, that the worker injury rate has dropped in recent years, from 9.87

However, in response, the Saskatchewan government released their own statement on the subject, in which they noted that they currently have 55 inspectors in place, not 27. They also noted, quite pointedly, that the worker injury rate has dropped in recent years, from 9.87 per cent in 2007 to 6.19 per cent in 2015.

In particular, the labour group points to several incidents this month in two locations to make their point. In one, a 27-year-old oilfield worker died at a site near Alameda. In the others, one worker was killed and another seriously injured in two separate incidents at a potash mine near Vanscoy. They also noted that only about 25 per cent of all inspections were random inspections, while most target employers with the worst injury rates. As the Federation of Labour sees things, that means 75 per cent of employers are notified and can correct any issue before OHS inspectors show up.

While ultimately, workplace safety is always the employer’s responsibility, but it is the government’s job to make sure employers are fulfilling their responsibility. This kind of “controversy” is good because it lets everyone know that someone is watching and that what they do makes a difference.

Saskatchewan Concerned Over Fall Safety

Friday, August 26th, 2016

investigatorIn Saskatchewan, safety officials are examining serious problems with fall safety at residential construction sites throughout the province. Their Occupational Health and Safety Division (OHS) took a look at the results of inspections conducted on such sites in 2015 and found a startling lack of compliance with OHS regulations.

For example, during two stepped up inspection campaigns last year, they only found 41 percent compliance with regulations regarding the covering of openings into which a worker could step or fall. When it came to providing barriers for open shafts, they found only 20 per cent  compliance. Only 48 per cent of sites were compliant with regarding the wearing of protective headgear, only 41 per cent used fall protection and only 50 percent of workers had even been trained with regard to an effective fall protection plan.

That’s why WorkSafe Saskatchewan is now engaged in a campaign to remind those contractors engaged in home building and renovation to pay closer attention to problems such as these. Based on the 2015 Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) Annual Report, construction trades helpers and labourers made 775 accepted claims, which was the fourth-highest number in the province.

That’s also why OHS will be stepping up inspections at residential construction sites for the rest of the summer and throughout the fall. They plan to focus on the most dangerous and pressing compliance issues in residential construction, including uncovered openings and failure to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and fall protection equipment. If your residential construction worksite isn’t up to standards, contractors can expect to be hit with fines and possibly even stop-work orders, so be prepared.

Two Cement Truck Accidents in a Week

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

hardhatLast week was not a good one for workers working with or on cement trucks in the Ottawa area. For example, on Wednesday, August 10, officials with the Ontario Ministry of Labour were informed of an incident at a new residential construction site in the Greely area.

According to the Ottawa Paramedic Service, they treated a 43-year-old worker for both a concussion and a serious hand injury as a result of being struck by the metal pipe of a cement pumping truck. It happened as the cement was being poured into wooden forms at the time of the incident. On Thursday, it was reported that the worker was in stable condition in an unidentified Ottawa hospital.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t even the first accident of the week involving workers and a cement truck. Last Monday, another construction worker, later identified as Jacques Lambert, died after he was pulled into a cement mixer at Lafarge Canada construction site in Ottawa’s east end.

In that incident, Lambert, who was an employee of Ottawa-based Prestige Design and Construction Haulage Limited, whom Lafarge had contracted, tried to clear some caked-on concrete from the truck when he fell and was somehow pulled into the drum. According to reports from emergency personnel who arrived at the scene, several of his co-workers tried to help but said that he was too badly injured. The emergency crews rushed to the site after receiving the call and climbed the cement truck’s ladder, but found that the worker had already died.

Officials from the Ontario Ministry of Labour are investigating. None of the companies involved with either incident have commented, except to say that they are cooperating with the investigation. Any charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act must be laid within one year of the incident. If convicted, companies can be fined as much as $500,000, while individuals who are found guilty can be penalized as much as $25,000 or spend as much as 12 months in jail.

 

Company Fined for Demo Site Injury

Monday, August 15th, 2016

ExcavatorIn an Ontario court last week, a family-owned construction company that specializes in demolition services for the construction industry, Sean Teperman Consulting Corp., pleaded guilty to violations of the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act and was hit with a $50,000 fine for an accident in which a new construction worker was seriously injured.

The accident that led to the violation and fine happened on April 10, 2014, while the company was in the process of demolishing a building in Toronto. The worker, who was on only his second day on the job, was working with a crew to load dump trucks with debris using an excavator. The excavator would lift the debris and place it into the dump truck, with the worker in question acting as a spotter for the excavator operator, while being positioned in a box inside the bed. However, as the debris was being loaded, he was struck by the moving bucket from the excavator. The worker was subsequently taken to hospital for serious injuries.

An investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour found that the worker who was supposed to be doing the spotting was actually not even visible to the excavator operator.  They determined that this was a violation of the Construction Projects Regulation that states, “no worker shall remain on or in a vehicle, machine or equipment while it is being loaded or unloaded if the worker might be endangered by remaining there.” They also charged the company with violating OHS regulations requiring that an employer ensure that a worker is working with all protective measures and procedures required by the Construction Projects Regulation.

After the company pleaded guilty, Sean Teperman Consulting Corp. and was fined $50,000 by Justice of the Peace Sunny Ng in Toronto court. The court then imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means a total hit to the company’s bottom line of $62,500 because failed to make sure every worker at the site was safe.

Paving Machine Rollover Accident

Monday, August 8th, 2016

motorgraderAccording to the Alberta Ministry of Labour, safety officials there are investigating an accident at a road construction zone near the town of Beaverlodge, located near the border with British Columbia. The accident, which occurred on July 25, claimed the lives of two workers, who were crushed when they were operating an asphalt reclaimer as part of a highway repaving project and the machine rolled over into a ditch, crushing them.

Though the information released was limited, the Beaverlodge detachment of RCMP did confirm the two fatalities. They said that a Vancouver-based construction company, Ledcor Group, is the main contractor for the paving project, but that the two workers, whose names were not released, worked for a subcontractor, Lafarge, which is a supplier of construction materials throughout North America that counts its Calgary location as one of its main offices.

Alberta Ministry of Labour occupational health and safety investigators are in the process of investigating the incident. Two days after the accident, they issued a stop-use order on the asphalt reclaimer, as well as a stop-work order on the overall road reclamation process at the worksite until they could gather more information. RCMP officials noted that they have never heard of a rollover accident involving any piece of road paving equipment. This does seem to be an unusual occurrence, so it will be interesting to find out whether or not this machine had been maintained properly, or if the operators had been properly trained or were doing something they should not have.

Company Fined for Not Securing Structure

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

stop and think signOntario-based Welded Tube of Canada Corporation was found guilty of violating several provisions of the provincial Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act and has been fined $50,000 for an incident in which one of their workers was injured by a falling post.

The incident that led to the charges and the fine happened on March 5, 2014 at a construction site in Concord. On that date, workers were in the process of dismantling and replacing a steel storage system, which consisted of what are called “sleeper beams,” which are described as 7-inch hollow steel tubes. These “sleeper beams” were laid out on the ground and vertical upright posts were being welded onto the sleeper beams. When one of the workers cut loose one of the upright posts, that caused the posts to shift and then fall onto a worker, striking and injuring him. Thankfully, since the accident, the worker has returned to his usual full-time duties.

When the Ontario Ministry of Labour conducted their investigation, they determined that the sleeper beams had not been adequately anchored in a way that would prevent movement, which is a violation of OHS Regulation 213/91, which states that “every part of a project, including a temporary structure, shall be adequately braced to prevent any movement that may affect its stability or cause its failure or collapse.”

Justice of the Peace Karen Walker ruled that Welded Tube failed as a constructor to ensure that the measures and procedures prescribed by the regulation were carried out in the workplace, contrary to the OHS Act. In addition to the $50,000 fine that was imposed, a  25-per-cent victim fine surcharge was imposed, as  required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means the total hit to the company’s bottom line was $62,500, just because workers didn’t stabilize the structure, as required by law. This is another incident demonstrating the importance of a workplace safety culture. If workers had taken an extra moment to make sure the structure was stable, they would have prevented a worker injury and saved the company a lot of money.