Archive for the ‘OHS’ Category

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.

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.

Expanded Definition of “Worker” in Ontario

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Expanded definition of workerWhen the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014 came into effect in Ontario last November, the definition of “worker” under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) became far more broad, and made Ontario’s definition more consistent with the definition used across Canada. Employers must know this definition if they’re going to comply with the regulations and avoid huge penalties.

Under the OHSA in previous years, only those employees who performed work or a service for pay were defined as “workers.” What that meant was, those who were not paid were not covered under the OHSA. However, with the new definition of “worker” the OHSA applies to additional workers, such as these:

  • Those employees who performs work or supplies services for pay or other compensation.
  • A student, whether in a secondary school or college, who works or provides services for no pay or other compensation, if it’s part of an authorized work experience program approved by a school board or any program approved by any post-secondary institution, such as a college or university.
  • Someone who receives training from an employer, but who is not an “employee,” as defined by the Employment Standards Act (ESA), but who meets certain conditions.
  • Any other person who works or provides services to an employer for no pay or other compensation.

Under this expanded definition, all workers, whether they are paid or unpaid, are entitled to the same rights under the OHSA. It also makes all workers responsible for knowing their duties under the OHSA. It also means all workers, whether paid or not, are entitled to be properly trained, informed and supervised in a way that protects their health and safety.

This expanded definition is not exclusive to Ontario; some form of this definition has been in place for some time in most other provinces. But no matter where your main business is located, ensuring that all workers, whether they’re paid or not, receive the same treatment and the same protection in the workplace. Training workers and making them aware of workplace hazards is a prudent move for any employer, and will prevent your workers, your reputation and your bottom line.

Company Fined $325k for Lack of Safety Processes, Training

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Electric_plantIt seems clear that the courts are intent on imposing higher penalties against employers who violate the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 2015. One example is the $325,000 fine assessed last week against Hydro One Networks Inc. The fine came after the company pleaded guilty for an incident in which a worker was killed as he moved power equipment at the company’s Hinchinbrooke Distribution Station in Central Frontenac Township.

The incident happened on March 5, 2013. A five-worker crew was in the process of replacing a voltage regulator. The regulator’s location was such that steel beams were overhead, so it had to be moved laterally. That meant it couldn’t be moved with a crane alone, so the crew used what is called a “jack and roll” method, in which the regulator was moved using wooden rollers.

The regulator to be replaced was removed without incident. However, the 15-ton replacement regulator was being moved into place using a concrete pad moving across wooden planking. The rollers wouldn’t fit properly beneath the regulator, so they stopped moving it while a worker put wooden blocking in place and mounted a jack, to raise the regulator high enough to re-position the rollers and resume movement. Unfortunately, not long after, the regulator tipped forward and crushed the worker. While the four co-workers were able to move the edge of the regulator enough to get the injured worker out of the way, the worker died from his injuries not long after.

The Ministry of Labour investigation that followed discovered that the company had no written procedure for the jack-and-roll process, and that jack-and-roll procedures using stabilizing measures and equipment and that prevented uncontrolled forward movements had not been used in this case, and the jack’s location created a hazard for the worker should the regulator move forward.

Hydro One Networks Inc. pleaded guilty for their failure, as an employer, to ensure that materials or equipment at a project be stored and moved in a manner that does not endanger a worker, which is a violation of Ontario Regulation 213/91 (the Construction Projects Regulation) and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The $325,000 fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace Jack Chiang in the Provincial Offences Court in Kingston on January 13, 2015. In addition to the fine, the court imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That’s a total hit of $406,250 to that company’s bottom line, simply for not developing and implementing a procedure that might have saved a worker’s life.

Company Directors Jailed for OHS Violations

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Company Directors JailedTwo company directors for furniture importer New Mex Canada Inc. were sentenced to 25 days in jail after they pleaded guilty to Occupatonal Health and Safety Act violations that led to a warehouse worker’s death.

The accident in question occurred on Jan. 18, 2013, when a worker was using an “order picker,” which is a combination of a forklift and an operator-up platform, to move merchandise around the company’s Brampton, Ontario warehouse. The order picker, which had been modified, featured a second platform that had not been equipped with a guard rail. Not only that, but the worker was not wearing safety shoes and he was not equipped with fall protection.

At some point, the worker was found on the floor, and was soon pronounced dead of blunt force trauma to the head.

An Ontario Ministry of Labour investigation followed, and they found multiple violations of Ontario’s OHSA, as well as Ontario Regulation 851, which covers industrial workplaces. As a result, New Mex Canada was charged with failure to provide proper training and supervision to a worker regarding fall protection and/or working from height, as well as their failure as an employer to ensure that safety measures required by law were carried out. After pleading guilty to the charges, the company was fined $250,000 by the court, which also added the 25 per cent victim fine surcharge, as required by law. That makes the total cost to the company is $312,500.

In addition to the large fine, the two directors, Baldev Pura and Rajinder Saini, were charged with failing as directors of the company to take reasonable care that the corporation complied with the OHSA and Regulation 851. In pleading guilty to the charges, they were sentenced to 25 days in jail. The sentence will be served on weekends, but both were also ordered to take a health and safety course within the next 60 days.

Study: Ontario Workplace Injury Rates Sliding Downward

Monday, January 12th, 2015

health & safety OntarioAccording to a recently released study, it is clear that the measures taken by the Ontario Ministry of Labour to improve and protect the health and safety of workers throughout the province are  seem to be working. Researchers’ analyzed provincial statistics and found that work-related injury rates in the province fell by about 30 per cent during the eight year period from 2004 to 2011. During the same period, however, non-work injury rates saw no change, indicating that measures the Ministry has taken to improve worker safety are having a positive effect.

There was an overall decline in the total number of injuries throughout Ontario during the study period, but virtually all of the decline is attributable to the significant decline in the number of on-the-job injuries. In fact, if non-work related injuries, such as those suffered during leisure activities like boating and driving for pleasure, had fallen as much as work-related injuries, the province would have seen an overall drop of 200,000 injuries overall by 2011.

The authors of the study made a point to note that all injuries are absolutely preventable, and that a 30 per cent decline in work-related injuries proves that efforts undertaken to prevent injuries really do work. They note that injury is the leading cause of death for Canadians under 45, and that injuries represent 10 per cent of the economic burden of illness throughout Canada, a number that is roughly the same as heart disease or cancer.

If you can see the value of research into preventing heart disease or cancer, surely you can see the benefit of preventing workplace injuries and illness. A healthy workplace benefits everyone.

Ontario MOL Moves Forward With Workplace Safety Strategy

Friday, December 26th, 2014

Fall SafetyThe Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) has revealed a significant update to its integrated occupational health and safety strategy, and many of the included initiatives will impact the construction industry. The update includes new initiatives for training workers at heights, as well as more advanced training for entry-level workers, and certification for joint health and safety committees.

The reveal was made to a room packed with construction industry professionals at Construct Canada earlier this month. The integrated health and safety strategy was first released in December 2013, and featured initiatives designed to prevent injuries and fatalities over a period of three to five years. This is the first major update to the strategy.

The updated plan includes several initiatives to bring greater awareness of the hazards associated with working at heights of three metres or more. Workers who are toiling at such a height will now be required to wear a harness, and they will be required to undergo training with an approved program from an approved provider. The program they propose will be divided into two parts, with Part 1 being three hours on basic theory, followed by Part 2, which will be three and a half hours of practical training on equipment.

This initiative is a key recommendation made by the Expert Panel on Occupational Health and Safety, which was created as a response to the Christmas Eve 2009 scaffolding tragedy, in which four construction workers fell 13 storeys to their deaths as they were renovating a Toronto apartment complex.

In addition to the working at heights training, the MOL will be implementing mandatory entry-level health and safety training for all construction workers. The intent is to create a baseline training knowledge for anyone who works in the industry.

The MOL also announced that several focus groups are in place to discuss the status of a new standard for Joint Health and Safety Committee Certification. They noted that the single-most important proposed change to be formalized so far is that certified members must be trained in a minimum of six hazards per sector. They also intend to implement a transferability provision, so that  a member who is certified at one construction company will still be considered certified if they move to another.

Company Faces Charges for Fall by 14 Year Old Roofer

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Roof WorkersIn Alberta, a roofing contractor faces numerous occupational health and safety charges in the wake of an incident this past July in which a worker fell nearly four metres from the roof of a house. What makes this case unusual is that the worker who fell was only 14 years old.

Airdrie, Alberta-based Vital Contracting Ltd. is scheduled to make their first appearance in court in Red Deer on Dec. 19, where they will answer to one count of inappropriately employing a person younger than 15 years old, and others, for their failure to train a worker in fall protection and their failure to develop a comprehensive fall protection plan. They have also been accused of failing to ensure the safety of a worker, failure to competently supervise the worker, and a failure to keep employment records.

The incident that led to the charges happened at a residence in Lacombe, which is located between Edmonton and Red Deer. Thankfully, the injured worker survived the fall, although he was hospitalized briefly.

According to Alberta’s Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour, this incident is particularly troubling, because it involved a young worker and fall protection, two areas that involve tremendous risk to workers, and which concern the agency the most. As a result, in addition to charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, they have taken the relatively rare step of also charging them under the province’s Employment Standards Code, based on the fact that they employed someone under 15 inappropriately. This is the first time since 2009 that they’ve lain charges under both Acts against a single employer

For violating the Employment Standards Code, Vital Contracting could face a fine of up to $100,000, while a first offence under the provincial OHS Act could cost them as much as $500,000 and/or six months in prison.


Company Fined $400k for Toronto Subway Construction Worker Death

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Subway constructionA terrible accident that occurred at a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) subway construction site in North York in 2011 has led to a guilty plea and a $400,000 fine against OHL-FCC GP Canada Inc.,the construction company for whom the victim worked. .

A work crew was on the job site near York University on October 11, 2011, when the accident happened. They were working on twin bored tunnels that will eventually become an 8.6-km subway line for the TTC. One of the workers was operating a drill rig equipped with an auger to create a shaft. At the same time, another worker was operating an excavator, digging dispersal holes near the pile being drilled so that wet waste material from the drill casing could be discharged into them. A third worker was operating a backhoe loader, which was being used to remove excavated earth from the drilling area.

The drill rig operator raised the auger from the hole and swung the mast. He and several witnesses saw the boom swing to the right and he felt the machine move. Witnesses also saw one of the drill rig’s tracks slip into a rut, which caused it to topple over. In the process, the mast and casing crushed both the excavator and the backhoe. The excavator operator was seriously injured, and the backhoe operator was killed in the accident.

The ensuing investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour determined that the main factors in the accident included inadequate site preparation, resulting in the soil base being incapable of withstanding the weight and pressure created by the drill rig. In addition, they found that the procedure of digging dispersal holes filled with wet material actually weakened the soil base, making the accident more likely. The drill rig was also being operated on a slope greater than allowed within safe parameters.

OHL-FCC GP pleaded guilty to failing as a constructor to ensure that safety measures required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act were followed, and was fined $400,000. The fine was imposed by Justice Melvyn Green in Old City Hall Court in Toronto, who also added a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means the company Is out $500,000 altogether, just because they didn’t take proper precautions to keep workers safe. Another example showing that safe workplaces don’t cost, they save.

Report: Ontario WSIB Still Rewarding Unsafe Employers

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

WSIB OntarioAccording to a new report, the Ontario workers compensation insurance system that was previously discovered to have been giving rebates to employers who were found to be dangerous back in 2008 investigation may still be doing just that.

The report, from the Ontario Federation of Labour, seems to suggest that, in years following worker deaths and serious injuries, a number of companies are still getting a lot of money in safety rebates. In some cases, the rebates were so large as to negate the fines the companies were assessed by Ontario courts for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) laws and regulations.

For its part, the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has questioned the accuracy of the research that led to this new report, and they claim to have taken what they refer to as “strong action” in recent years, cancelling $10 million or more in potential Fatal Claim Premium Adjustment policy rebates. However, the report notes that 135 employers who had been convicted of offences under the OHSA received premium rebates from the WSIB, and in 58 per cent of those cases, they received rebates for the same year their offences occurred. This happened between 2011 and 2013. In all, those rebates to 78 employers came to more than $14 million.

Most Ontario companies are required to buy insurance from the WSIB, and those premiums pay for the program. The purpose of the rebates is to reward those companies that are able to improve workplace safety. The also assess surcharges on those companies with a spotty record, in an effort to put pressure on them to improve. Unfortunately, it’s not looking as if the WSIB is doing things the way they are designed.