Archive for the ‘OHS’ Category

Ontario to Strengthen Workplace Harassment Rules

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

scaleIn late October, the Ontario government introduced Bill 132, which is called the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act 2015. Bill 132 is intended to augment Bill 168, which came into force five years ago and required employers to draft, design and fully implement workplace violence and harassment policies and procedures under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

Since Bill 168 became law, many critics have noted that it was a great start, but it did not go far enough to protect workers from workplace harassment. As more incidents have happened to prove that notion true, Ontario officials created what they called an “Action Plan,” which is what led to Bill 132. Here are some of the major changes:

  • A clarification of the definition of “workplace harassment” in the OHSA to say that “reasonable” performance management and direction to workers will not be considered “workplace harassment,” which is good news for employers who have faced frivolous harassment complaints from workers who considered a poor performance appraisal to be harassment.
  • Workplace harassment programs will be expanded and changes made to procedures currently in place so that workers don’t have to report incidents to someone who may be the alleged harasser and to make sure that information about the complaint is not disclosed unless such disclosure is necessary for investigative purposes or for the purpose of taking corrective action.
  • New, more specific duties will be added to the OHSA to require an employer to conduct a thorough investigation into incidents and complaints and to make sure both the alleged victim and the alleged harasser be fully informed in writing of the results of the investigation and any corrective action taken.
  • All workplace harassment programs will require an annual review, in order to ensure that the employer’s workplace harassment policy is being implemented adequately.
  • It will also grant inspectors from the Ministry of Labour more power to investigate a workplace harassment incident. They will also have the discretion to appoint someone they believe is qualified as an “impartial person” to conduct an investigation and issue a written report. The inspector will also have the discretion to order the employer to pay the costs incurred by bringing in that “impartial person.”

Bill 132 will bring changes, so employers should be ready if and when it does. Employers will have to amend their policies and procedures, so as to  specifically include “workplace sexual harassment” and they will have to strengthen those harassment policies and procedures and be fully prepared to take every complaint seriously and investigate thoroughly. The target date for putting Bill 132 into force is July 1, 2016, which may seem far away, but it really isn’t. It might be good to prepare now.

Manitoba Investigating Safety of Winnipeg Trash Workers

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Trash TruckSince 2013, Emterra, the company the City of Winnipeg has contracted with to pick up garbage and recycling, has seen 85 claims filed with the Manitoba’s Workers Compensation Board for a number of injuries, some of them relatively serious. In addition, the Manitoba Ministry of Labour has issued 13 stop-work orders, two administrative penalties and 58 improvement orders to the company, including a number for failure to follow safe work procedures, as well as their failure to provide personal protective equipment and competent worker supervision.

Also, earlier this month, the City of Winnipeg announced their intent to investigate the company and noted that they have responded to five serious incidents and received 23 complaints from employees and the public since the company took over trash collection in the city. Among the serious incidents include one in which a temporary worker was run over by an Emterra trash collection truck, another in which a worker became caught between a truck and a hydro pole and yet another in which a worker suffered smoke inhalation and a serious head injury in a fire.

Some officials suggest that the safety issues may be rooted in the fact that Emterra relies on subcontractors who hire temporary day labourers, who may not receive the proper training or the proper clothing or protective equipment. They point out that one key reason for all of the claims is that workers are not using the truck’s mechanisms to lift things safely. Some have pointed out that these health and safety issues were not present when Winnipeg city employees operated garbage and recycling pickup services.

This issue has been festering for a while. For example, every day, Emterra hires as many as 20 workers to haul trash through a company called EZ Workforce, but back in June, the province issued a stop-work order to EZ Workforce based on what they found to be problems with the provision and required use of personal protective equipment, most specifically, the requirement that all workers wear steel-toed shoes.

It is not known how long the current investigations will continue.

Hamilton Grocer Out $75,000 for Grinder Incident

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

meat grinderIn a prime example of how failing to make sure all machines in the workplace are properly monitored for safety and to train and properly supervise workers to make sure they consider safety a major priority comes this story, in which Nations Fresh Foods, a grocery store in Hamilton, Ontario, pleaded guilty last week and was hit with a fine of $60,000 for its role in an accident that happened on August 15, 2013, in which a worker was critically injured while operating a meat grinding machine.

On that date, a supervisor at the store, located on King Street West, told the worker to use a meat mincing/grinding machine to grind chicken. The machine, a table-top model, operates by pushing pieces of meat into a small inlet that leads into a shaft and to an auger, which grinds the meat and pushes it out of the front of the grinder.

The machine is equipped with a specially designed guard that is installed with screws and is supposed to keep the operator’s fingers out of the inlet area, and a plunger actually pushes the meat through the machine into the auger area. Unfortunately, at the time the accident occurred, the guard was not in place and the worker was feeding meat directly into the inlet area by hand. As one can guess, by doing this, the worker’s hand came in contact with the moving auger, which resulted in what was only described by the court as “a critical injury.”

An investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour revealed that the guard had been missing from the grinding machine for some time before the date of the accident, possibly since the store began operation in July 2013. Since the manufacturer’s operating instructions for the machine included a specific warning regarding using the grinder without the guard installed, they were not using the machine as designed.

As a result, Nations Fresh Foods was charged with violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act, specifically Section 25 of Ontario Regulation 851, which is the Industrial Establishments Regulation, to which the company pleaded guilty. The $60,000 fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace Ivana Baldelli at the Provincial Offences Court in Hamilton, and she also added the 25 per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act, which brings the damage for this failure to keep workers safe to $75,000; all because they perhaps found it inconvenient to run a grinding machine without a guard.

How much is basic safety worth to your business? Can you afford a $75,000 hit for something so simple?

Company Fined $60,000 for Worker Loss of Fingers

Friday, August 7th, 2015

Metal shearing machineYarl Metal Fabrications Inc. has pleaded guilty of violations of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act and has been hit with a $60,000 fine, all stemming stems from an accident that occurred last year, in which a worker lost several fingers while operating a metal-cutting machine that was unguarded.

The incident occurred on April 23, 2014, as a worker was cutting scrap metal with a shearing machine at the company’s Scarborough facility. The worker was operating the shear machine, which is activated with a foot pedal, despite the fact that the required guarding had been removed the previous day for work on a custom job.

As he was operating the machine, a piece of metal became hung up on a corner of the machine, so the worker used his hand to try to wipe the material away. While his hand was in the hazard area where the guard should have been, he accidentally pushed on the foot pedal, which caused the machine’s shear to cycle, resulting in the amputation of multiple fingers.

After an investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, it was determined that the injuries happened because the equipment was not guarded in accordance with the Industrial Establishments Regulation, which is at Ontario Regulation 851, Section 24. According to that rule, “where a machine or prime mover or transmission equipment has an exposed moving part that may endanger the safety of any worker, the machine or prime mover or transmission equipment shall be equipped with and guarded by a guard or other device that prevents access to the moving part.”

The specific charge to which Yarl Metal Fabrications Inc. pleaded guilty to was for failing in its duty as an employer to ensure that the measures and procedures prescribed in the OHSA were carried out. Justice of the Peace Chris Triantafilopoulos fined the company $60,000 and also imposed a 25 per cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.

That means the company is out $75 total for not making sure a machine was guarded as required. Safety doesn’t cost your company, a lack of safety does.

Construction Workers Recovering From 2 Accidents on Same Day

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Hardhat Safety manualThe Ontario Ministry of Labour is on the scenes and investigating two separate incidents at two separate worksites in Ottawa last Tuesday, July 28, in which a total of three construction workers suffered serious injuries and were transported to hospital.

The first incident occurred at a little before 5 a.m. at a worksite at 99 Bank St., when paramedics were called to the scene and treated two workers who were in their 20s at the scene before taking them to a local hospital, where they were said to be in serious but stable condition. While there were no specific details available about the cause of the accident, according to paramedics, one of them suffered injuries to his head and neck, while the other suffered injuries to his pelvis and lower body. A third worker, who was also in his 20s, was assessed at the scene but wasn’t treated.

The second construction accident occurred just a little more than five hours later, at the construction site of a new convenience store in Kanata near Teron Road and Campeau Drive. Paramedics arrived  on scene at a little after 10 a.m., where they found a 65-year-old worker with traumatic head injuries. He was immediately taken to hospital, where he was listed in serious condition.

Once again, not many details were released about what exactly caused these accidents and what happened, but in addition to officials from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Ottawa Police are also looking into both incidents.

Ontario Ministry of Labour Investigating Accident at Chrysler Plant

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Ambulance 2A 54-year-old worker is recovering in a Toronto hospital and the Ontario Ministry of Labour is investigating after he was seriously injured in an accident at the vehicle assembly plant in Brampton owned by Fiat Chrysler America Canada, Inc. (FCA Canada), formerly Chrysler Corporation, at a little before 1 a.m. on July 26.

According to the Ministry, the worker received a critical head injury while he was doing work at a press machine. It took a high-angle rescue team from Brampton Fire and Emergency Services to get the worker down safely, after which he was taken to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. While the injuries were considered severe, they are no longer considered to be life-threatening.

The Ministry of Labour began their investigation of the huge plant and issued two orders almost immediately. For one, FCA Canada was ordered to put in place measures and procedures designed to make doing maintenance work on the press machine safe, while the second was to ensure that workers are trained on the new measures and procedures.

According to Ministry officials, both orders have been complied with, but they continue to investigate the plant, which covers almost three million square feet and employs more than 3,000 workers. The plant assembles a number of popular vehicles, including the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger.  Their investigation will focus on what safeguards are in place to prevent accidents like these and others, to make sure the plant has proper procedures in place to comply with all regulations, including the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act and whether or not workers are being properly trained regarding how to spot and subsequently avoid hazards.

Ontario Mine Cited by Ministry of Labour

Friday, July 31st, 2015

judgement Last week, Goldcorp Canada Ltd. pleaded guilty to violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the Ontario Court of Justice and was fined $100,000 for a terrible accident in which a mine worker was injured by a haulage car.

The accident that led to the charges and the fine happened on October 13, 2013, as mine workers were using a diesel scoop tram to load haulage cars, which were operated a battery-powered locomotive on tracks at the Campbell Complex Mine, which is located near Balmertown in the Red Lake District.

As they were working, the haulage cars would exit and return to the work areas. Two of the workers were preparing large chunks of ore for a blast while a third worker was toiling next to the scoop tram. At one point, one of the workers noticed that the haulage cars were failing to stop, and he attempted to pull the worker closest to the car away from the tracks, but it was too late, and that worker was hit by the haulage car anyway and pinned against the scoop tram. As a result, he suffered numerous cuts and a broken bone.

After a thorough investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Goldcorp Canada Ltd. Was charged with failing as an employer to take all precautions reasonable in the circumstances to ensure that the operator of the vehicle had a clear view of the path of travel, and that it violated their mandated protection of a worker as required under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

In court on July 22, 2015, the company pleaded guilty and was fined $100,000  by Justice of the Peace Daisy Hoppe, who also imposed a 25 per cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That makes the total hit to the company’s bottom line $125,000 for not taking some simple precautions, thus once again demonstrating that workplace safety doesn’t cost, it pays.

Ammonia Leak Kills Fort Erie Worker

Monday, July 13th, 2015

chemicalsThe Rich Products plant in Fort Erie, Ontario suspended all production last week as the Ontario Ministry of Labour conducted a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding an ammonia leak that killed one worker and left two others hospitalized Monday, July 6.

Rich Products is based in Buffalo, New York, but they operate several dozen plants around the world, including one other plant in Canada. The Fort Erie plant employs 285 in all; 85 of them were on site at the time of the leak. There were also 10 contract workers on the site at the time, and the worker who succumbed was one of those; a contract worker for oil analysis firm WearCheck Canada.

Fire officials in Fort Erie were called out to a chemical leak that was reported at a few minutes after noon Monday. At the same time, officials at the plant, which makes frozen pizzas and bakery dough, evacuated all of the plant’s workers. Ammonia is used as part of the refrigeration process.

Unfortunately, though the Ministry of Labour and the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change were called Monday, it wasn’t until Wednesday that ammonia levels dropped to a low enough level to allow anyone to enter the plant. It is unknown how long the investigation will take. So far, air and water samples are being taken to determine the leak’s impact. It is not known how long the plant will have to remain closed for the investigation, but the Niagara Regional Police did release a statement saying that the leak had been contained and there is no risk to the public.

Police noted that the two injured workers were sent to hospital with what were characterized as non-life-threatening injuries and that all others at the plant, including visitors, are safe. Some nearby homes  were evacuated for a time, while others were asked to stay inside and to close their windows and doors and to turn off their air-conditioning units. Once the leak was contained later that day, they were given the all-clear to return to their homes, or to reopen their windows, doors and to go outside.


Landscaping Company Hit with $100k Fine After a Fatal Fall

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Fall Arrest HarnessAn Ottawa landscaping and property services company, Lafleur de la Capitale Inc., has pleaded guilty to a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and been fined $100,000, for a workplace accident in which worker was killed when he fell from the ledge of a parking lot ramp at the National Gallery of Canada.

As a work crew from Lafleur was tending to the landscaping of a Gallery property on August 27, 2013, a worker was walking up the inclined entrance ramp of the underground parking facility when a car approached and the worker stepped back, causing him to fall backwards, to a lower level of the exit ramp, about 15 feet below. As a result of the injuries he incurred in the fall, the worker died at the scene.

Investigators with the Ontario Ministry of Labour learned that Lafleur de la Capitale failed to do a proper risk assessment at the worksite, which would have identified the falling hazard posed by the ramps, as well as those at the open side of the flowerbeds. If they had done the risk assessment, they could have taken measures to prevent the fall, by providing workers with fall arrest devices or a fall restraint system whenever they worked in those areas.

Lafleur de la Capitale Inc. pleaded guilty to its failure to take every reasonable precaution under the circumstances to protect a worker, which is a violation of the OHSA. Justice of the Peace Louisette Girault assessed a fine of $100,000 and also imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That’s a dead worker and a $125,000 hit to the company’s bottom line for not doing a proper risk assessment and supplying workers with the essentials. More evidence that worker safety doesn’t cost, it pays.

Nova Scotia Gets Creative With OHS Penalty

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Electrical_HazardA court in Nova Scotia court has approached a violation of the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act with what can only be described as a “creative sentence.” In addition to paying a significant fine of $35,000, the company will also have to make 150 hours of safety presentations within a space of 18 months.

The violation happened when a journeyman electrician began work on a still-energized system and was electrocuted in the process. The company not only did nothing to make sure they complied with the Canadian Electrical Code; the court found that the company had failed to develop and implement any policies or practices to address workplace safety anywhere in the workplace. Their rationale for doing so was classic; they apparently felt that, since the worker was an experienced electrician who was very safety-oriented, there was no need.

The Nova Scotia OHSA allows the court to impose a “creative sentence option,” so after fining the company $35,000 and acknowledging that the company was extremely small, insolvent and out of business, they decided to add a community service element to the order, which required the company to make the presentations, detailing the facts of the case, including the workplace safety issues, and how they violated regulations. In all, the presentations were required to total 150 hours and be completed within 18 months.