Archive for the ‘OHS’ Category

Ministry of Labour Funds Innovative OHS Projects

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

canadian moneyThe Ontario Ministry of Labour has announced the first grants to be awarded under its Occupational Health and Safety Prevention and Innovation Program. Under that program, the province hopes to fund programs and initiatives designed to prevent workplace injuries and improve overall occupational health and safety in provincial workplaces.

The new program is aligned with Ontario’s Integrated Health and Safety Strategy, and the funding is directed at workplaces with a significant need to improve health and safety outcomes. Since the program launched in September 2014 with an open call for initiatives, the Ministry received 85 applications for funding.  After a thorough three-step review process, they chose 12 applicants to receive support for innovative OH&S initiatives. Among them include:

  • Minerva Canada Safety Management Education Inc. received funding for their project, which hopes to encourage more colleges and universities to incorporate health and safety education into their core curricula.
  • Our Youth at Work Association received a grant for their Safety Momentum for Vulnerable Workers initiative, which will use seminars and presentations to ensure that young workers better understand the importance of occupational health and safety.
  • The Thunder Bay Economic Development Commission received funding for a project to help employers in the Thunder Bay area to better understand their role they play in health and safety and to help them create and implement occupational health and safety programs.
  • Career Education Council Guelph Wellington Dufferin were awarded funding for an awareness and training program to create awareness of the importance of occupational health and safety in the workplace among youth, teachers, parents and families, including the development of a new safety app for students to use on their phones.
  • The Association for Workplace Tragedy Family Support received funding for their Threads of Life project, which provides support to families dealing with a life altering workplace injury, disease or fatality.
  • Community Living Prince Edward received funding to support a program to provide Musculoskeletal Disorder Injury Prevention Training for Developmental Service Workers, which will deal with the lifting hazardfor aging, part-time and new employees.
  • Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety received funding for an inquiry service, in which anyone in Ontario will have the ability to ask questions and receive accurate and reliable information regarding occupational health and safety.

Making Atlantic Canada’s Construction Industry Safer

Monday, May 11th, 2015

Training Equivalency AgreementIn an attempt to make the industry more competitive in their region and to aid in making workers more mobile and flexible, a number of construction safety experts and associations in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador have worked to create a Training Equivalency Agreement.

There are two parts to the agreement. The main part is to make training standards universal throughout all three provinces. What that means is, a worker trained in New Brunswick won’t have to be retrained to be able to take a job in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland and Labrador and vice-versa. That has been a problem for workers and employers in all three provinces for years, and setting up equivalent training everywhere will allow workers to go where the work is and it will save employers a lot of money and time in the long run.

The second part of the agreement will require the development of occupational health and safety training that will take into account the differences between the provinces, and make sure everyone meets or exceeds provincial training standards for all three.

The feeling is that with the Training Equivalency Agreement in place, not only will workers have more opportunities for employment, but it will allow companies to expend and create more of a regional presence, not blocked by the fact that their workers lack the safety training necessary for the other Atlantic Canada provinces.

Young Workers Inspection Blitz, Now Through August

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

health & safety OntarioAs part of its ongoing enforcement activities and initiatives, the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) conducts a number of Inspection Blitzes all year long, each focusing on a specific industry, sector or group. These blitzes feature unannounced visits to various workplaces, including construction sites, warehouses, factories, and even retail stores and offices, so that inspectors can examine the workplace to make sure they are in compliance with the Occupational Health & Safety Act and its regulations. There is a standard of zero-tolerance for these Blitzes, which means, if deficiencies are identified, they will issue orders or lay charges against the employer.

Last year, between May and August 2014 the Ministry conducted such an Inspection Blitz in a number of industrial sectors,  including service, manufacturing, hospitality, transportation, logging and landscaping, among several others. During last year’s blitz, more than 2,500 surprise visits were made to more than 2,000 workplaces, and the MOL issued more than 7,900 orders. The most commonly cited violations were for; failing to address workplace violence by making an assessment and instituting a workplace violence and harassment policy; failing to make a copy of the OHS available to workers; failure to maintain equipment properly and in good condition and; failure to conduct mandatory basic safety awareness training.

The MOL has announced that it is conducting another New and Young Worker Blitz, starting this month and running through  August. In order to prepare for this enforcement blitz successfully, employers and supervisors should make sure every worker, especially the new and younger ones, have been given Occupational Health & Safety awareness training, and that the OHS safety information they are given is up-to-date, and that all workers are aware of it and following it.

In addition, employers should be sure that all necessary equipment, materials and protective devices have been provided to all workers, that they have been properly maintained in good condition, and that they are being used as required by law. Be sure that all hazards are identified and that workers and supervisors are aware of them. They will also enforce any minimum-age requirements for jobs and equipment, so be aware of that, as well.

Keep in mind, while MOL inspectors will be looking closely at the conditions for new and young workers during this Blitz, they will be looking at everything, and the zero-tolerance policy extends to all violations, not just those having to do with new and young workers.

Cement Company Fined $75k for Worker Trapped in Hopper

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Worker Trapped in HopperAn Ontario cement manufacturer, St. Marys Cement, pleaded guilty last week to violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and was fined $75,000 for a terrible incident in which a worker suffered a leg injury after becoming trapped in a sand and gravel hopper.

The accident occurred on July 19, 2013, as a worker at the company’s aggregate pit in Sunderland tried to remove some oversized gravel that had become lodged in the lower section of an 80-ton capacity hopper and was blocking it. After he unsuccessfully tried to use a pry bar to clear the blockage from outside the hopper, he next climbed into the bucket of an excavator and was lowered into the hopper.

At that point, the conveyor belt below the hopper, which was being used to take material away from the area, was shut off, but then the the worker climbed out of the bucket and stood on top of the gravel that had been blocking the hopper. He managed to poke a hole in the blockage, thus allowing some of the gravel to fall through, filling up the belt, at which point, other workers were instructed to re-start the conveyor.

When the conveyor started, the movement released the blockage, causing the sand and gravel to flow out of the hopper along with the worker’s body, which became trapped in the hopper. Workers were then instructed to stop the conveyor belt, at which point, the worker was extricated and taken to hospital.

After an Ontario Ministry of Labour investigation, they found that the employer had failed to ensure that, before a worker entered into any silo, bin, hopper or other container or structure containing bulk material, all further supply of material thereto was stopped and any removal of material therefrom prevented, as is required by OHSA, Section 25(1)(c).

St. Marys Cement pleaded guilty to failing as an employer to ensure that measures and procedures prescribed by law were carried out in the workplace, and the court fined the company $75,000, to which the court also added a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.

Watching a worker climb into the hopper and fall through was obviously preventable, and now the employer is out a total of $93,750. Another example in which keeping workers safe saves companies a lot more than it costs.

New Ontario Working at Heights Regulations in Effect

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

WarningJust a reminder for those employers in Ontario; new working at heights (WAH) training requirements in the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act took effect on April 1. Since falls due to working at heights in an unsafe manner is a major factor in a great number of workplace fatalities and injuries at provincial workplaces, especially in the construction industry, this is important to know, because the Ministry of Labour plans to enforce this.

The new regulations require that all employers ensure that every worker on every construction project who has to use any sort of fall arrest system, including travel restraint and fall restricting systems, fall arrest systems, safety nets or safety belts complete a Ministry of Labour-approved training course for working at heights.

Those workers who have already been properly trained under the previous fall protection training requirements in the OHS prior to April 1 will have until April 1, 2017 to be properly trained under the new requirements. However, those workers who will be working at heights on construction projects and have not received training previously will have to undergo proper training before they start beginning now. Ministry inspectors will be treating this as a priority, and they have the ability to issue time-based compliance plan orders in cases when proof of training is required but has not been completed.

Vale Copper Smelter had “Poor Safety Culture”

Monday, April 6th, 2015

hardhatLast week, the Ontario Ministry of Labour laid 17 charges against Vale Canada Limited, two supervisors and one smelter worker for an incident that happened on April 6, 2014, in which 36-year-old worker Paul Rochette was killed and a second worker, a millwright, was injured. The incident occurred at the company’s Copper Cliff smelter.

Apparently, Rochette was attempting to remove a moil, which is a pin used in a machine used to crush ore. The crusher jaws had put the moil under such high pressure that, when he removed it, it shot out and struck Rochette in the head, killing him instantly.

In addition to the Ministry investigation, Vale and a local union also conducted an independent joint investigation, and noted in their report that the Copper Cliff Smelter did not have a strong safety culture at the time of the accident. While some in management at the company take safety very seriously, there are many others who don’t and Copper Cliff Smelter was apparently in the latter category.

Based on the findings from the joint investigation, Vale said in a statement last week that it made 58 recommendations, and that many have already been implemented.

Of the 17 charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, nine were against Vale Canada Limited, while five charges were laid against Vale supervisors; three against Eric Labelle, and two against Glenn Munro. A Vale worker named Greg Taylor is also facing three charges.

The charges are potentially very serious. The maximum fine for each charge faced by the company is $500,000, while the individuals face fine of as much as $25,000 and up to 12 months imprisonment for each charge.

Everyone charges is scheduled to make their first appearance at the Ontario Court of Justice in Sudbury on June 12, 2015.

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.