Archive for the ‘OHS’ Category

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.

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.

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.

Hydro Ottawa Fined for Electrocutions

Monday, April 11th, 2016

hydro linesRecently, after a trial, Hydro Ottawa Ltd was found guilty and fined $225,000 for an accident in which one worker was killed on the job and two others suffered serious injuries.

The accident that led to charges happened on March 22, 2012, as workers who were employed by a sub-contractor, Digsafe, Inc., were installing new hydro poles and wires below existing energized lines on Moodie Drive in Ottawa. As a crew of three workers were digging a hole, the boom of their work vehicle came within less than three metres of a power line that was located approximately 6 metres above the hole. As a result, all three workers received electrical shocks and they were all transported to hospital. Two of the workers were treated and released and suffered no permanent physical injuries, but the third worker was more seriously injured and died later in hospital.

Immediately after the incident, the Ontario Ministry of Labour conducted a thorough investigation and found a number of violations at the worksite and filed charges. After a trial, Hydro Ottawa was found guilty of a number of violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act’s Constructions Projects Regulation, including:

  • Failure to ensure that the boom of a vehicle was not more than three metres away from an energized overhead conductor;
  • Failure to assign a competent worker as a signaler;
  • Failure to warn the operator every time any part of the vehicle or other equipment may have been within three metres of the energized conductor and;
  • Failure to take every reasonable precaution to prevent hazards posed by energized electrical equipment, installation, and conductors.

After the guilty verdict was rendered, Justice of the Peace Brian Mackey assessed a fine of $225,000 on Hydro Ottawa and added the 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge required by the Provincial Offences Act. That’s a total fine of $281,250 for not keeping workers safe.

That was not the only fine in this incident. Back in 2013, Digsafe Inc., the sub-contractor and Ottawa Hydro’s co-defendant, pleaded guilty to charges against them in this incident and had to pay a fine of $125,000 plus the 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge. That cost that company a total of $156,250. That means the total fines for this single incident was $437,500, for simply not taking basic precautions, properly assessing hazards and keeping workers safe.

Company, Supervisor Fined for Fall

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Company, Supervisor Fined for FallOskam Welding (2014) Ltd., a welding and machining company located in Guelph, and one of its supervisors, Chad Wheeler, have been hit with total fines of $130,000 after pleading guilty to violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, for an incident in which a worker was killed in a fall from a structure the worker was assembling.

The accident happened on July 3, 2014, as workers were installing two mezzanine structures at an industrial complex in Guelph. At the time, Oskam was one week into the six-month construction project. The metal plates that were to be used to form the floor of the mezzanine measure about 10 feet by 4 feet and weighed up to 500 pounds each and they were being hoisted into place one at a time by a mobile crane. While one worker operated the crane from one worker, another worker at ground level was responsible for rigging the load to the crane.

At the time of the accident, two workers were standing on the mezzanine structure to receive and place the steel plates into position. While the workers  were wearing fall protection harnesses and lanyards, anchor points had not been installed, which meant the lifelines were not in use and those workers were unable to adequately prevent themselves from falling. On this day, the worker in question was left alone on the platform when a co-worker left to use the restroom. The worker signaled the crane operator to lower the load into place in the floor deck.

According to the Ministry of Labour, workers in the area heard sounds that appeared to indicate the worker was using a pry bar to position the plate just before he fell about 13 feet to the ground below. In addition to the fall, the plate also fell and struck him. The investigation also discovered there were no guardrails present at the edges of the mezzanines or the openings in the work surface, which was more than three metres from ground level; and because no anchor points were provided on the mezzanines to allow workers to tie off and be protected from falling. All of these constituted violations of  Ontario Regulation 213/91, the Construction Projects Regulation.

For its part, Oskam  pleaded guilty to their failure to ensure workers were protected from the hazard of falling and they were fined $125,000. The company’s worksite supervisor, Chad Wheeler, pleaded guilty to the same violation and was individually fined an additional $5,000. In addition to the fines, Justice of the Peace Michael Cuthbertson also imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. All of that because someone forgot to anchor the fall protection for a worker.



A Passerby Tips WorkSafeNB to Violations

Monday, March 21st, 2016

fallprotectionIt turns out a contractor in New Brunswick with 40 years’ experience reported his concerns about safety at one particular construction site in Fredericton to WorkSafeNB just two days before as worker at the site was severely injured in a fall.

The contractor, whose name is John Ball, is a pipefitter, called  the agency on Dec. 29, 2014, to report what he saw as a serious fall safety issue at the condo construction site. He was not working at the site at the time, he just happened to be passing by at the time and noticed that a lot of workers had no fall protection, so he took some video with his cellphone.

The day after they received the video and the complaint, WorkSafeNB visited the site and issued a stop-work order for a worker who was working at height without wearing fall protection. They presumably fixed the problem, because work resumed later that same day. However, the very next day, just two days after Ball made his call, on Dec. 31, 2014, a 26-year-old worker fell 12 metres from the fourth floor of the site to the ground below. The victim’s current condition is unknown, but he did spend several months at the Stan Cassidy Centre For Rehabilitation in Fredericton.

The main contractor on site at the time of the accident was Lead Structural Formwork (LSF), who claim that the worker who fell was a casual worker who had been given the task folding tarps on the first floor and that they had no idea why he was on the fourth floor. However, the report from WorkSafeNB claimed that the injured worker “was removing tarp from a scaffolding system when he fell … to the ground.” They note that, because the worker was not a site employee, no charges were recommended.

After that accident, WorkSafeNB visited the site several times and had to issue two more short-term stop-work orders related to fall safety, although no charges were recommended, since no incident involved the same contractor repeating the same offence and they only recommend charges in cases of non-compliance and repeat offenses. LSF had completed its work at the site sometime before September 2015, although construction is ongoing at the residential eight-storey condo building, which will be called the Royal T Suites.

Heavy Fine for Parts Manufacturer

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Heavy Fine Last week, a Mississauga company that produces auto parts, Precision Technologies, a division of Magna Powertrain Inc., pleaded guilty and was hit with an $80,000 fine for an accident in which a worker was seriously burned and suffered fractures in a workplace explosion at the company’s foundry.

The explosion happened on July 4, 2013, when a worker who usually worked in the machining section of the plant was asked to work at the foundry, something he had only done about a few times previously. He was asked to engage in what is called the “pre-heat pump well procedure,” in which he looked at whether two propane-fueled torch wands were properly lit before they were used to heat a pump well. A pump well is a small cube-like structure that is used to make sure the outflow of molten metal from an aluminum melter isn’t impeded by building up and solidifying, thus blocking the free flow.

The worker had seen the task performed previously and performed the task that way. He climbed onto the pump well and stood atop its mostly flat surface. The pump well also has a hatch that, when opened, allows for the lit torch wands to heat up the inside of the pump well. At the time, the worker was wearing safety glasses and gloves but he was not equipped with a face shield. As he was checking the wands, an explosion knocked the worker back and burned him. That impact caused him to jump to the concrete ground six feet below, which led to leg fractures that required surgery.

After an investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, it was determined that the worker had neither the experience nor adequate training needed to perform the task. They also found that, at the time of the incident, the company had no written or other procedure that the worker could have referred to, so that he could know a safe way to perform the task. Since then, the company has developed a safe procedure for the pump well pre-heat process, including the use of a dome mirror to make flame detection easier. They also installed a step platform to make standing on top of the pump unnecessary.

After Precision Technologies pleaded guilty to several violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, including failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker on the measures and procedures to follow when performing the pump well pre-heat task, they were fined $80,000 by Justice of the Peace John B. Farnum. The judge also imposed the 25 per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means a cool $100,000 hit to the company’s bottom line, for failing to ensure that a worker was prepared to do a job safely.