Archive for the ‘Supervisors’ Category

Who is “Competent” to Investigate Workplace Harassment?

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

judgementBecause a worker who filed a complaint against an employer had not agreed that a manager was impartial, the Federal Court of Canada has held that said manager was not a “competent person” to conduct an investigation into workplace harassment under the Canada Labour Code.

The worker, who was an employee of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), filed a written complaint that alleged harassment by a supervisor, in the form of “miscommunication, favouritism, humiliation, unfair treatment and a lack of respect.” That complaint was filed in December 2011.

In response to the complaint, the CFIA assigned a manager with the task of conducting a “fact-finding” review of the issues that had been raised in the complaint.  The manager undertook an investigation of the matter and came to the conclusion that, while there were certainly communication issues and there was some unresolved tension, there was no evidence of harassment.

After reading that conclusion, the worker then contacted a federal Health and Safety Officer (HSO) and alleged that the manager who conducted the investigation was not impartial enough to have conducted such an investigation. In response, the HSO issued a Directive to the CFIA, requiring that they appoint an impartial person to investigate the issues in the complaint, pursuant to the Canada Labour Code.

Dissatisfied, the CFIA then appealed that Directive to an Appeals Officer of the Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal of Canada, which took the CFIA’s side. It was then that the worker then appealed to the Federal Court of Canada, which took note that the Canada Labour Code sets out specific procedural protocols that an employer must follow when there is a complaint of “workplace violence.” They also noted that “harassment may constitute workplace violence, depending on the circumstances,” such as when a proper investigation of a harassment complaint by a competent person determines that the harassment could result in harm or illness to the employee.

The court then pointed out the definition of “competent person” to conduct a workplace violence investigation requires that such a person have the necessary knowledge, training and experience and that he or she is “impartial and is seen by (all) parties to be impartial.” Because the employee who filed the complaint did not agree that the manager was impartial, he was, by legal definition, not a “competent person” to conduct the investigation. That meant the manager’s investigation couldn’t be used and sent the complaint back to the Appeals Officer for re-determination of the issues.

Scaffolding Company Fined for Christmas Eve Disaster

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Scaffolding SafetyOttawa-based Swing N Scaff Inc., the supplier of a swing stage that was at the center of the deadly Christmas Eve scaffolding collapse in Toronto in 2009, has pleaded guilty to an Occupational Health and Safety Act violation for failing to ensure the platform was in good condition. As a result, they were fined $350,000.

In addition to that penalty, a company director, Patrick Deschamps, also pleaded guilty to the same charge, as well as one for failing to make sure the scaffolding was designed by a professional engineer. He was personally fined $50,000.

Back on December 24, 2009, six migrant workers from Eastern Europe, all of whom were employees of Toronto-based Metron Construction Corporation, were in the process of restoring the balconies on an apartment building in Toronto. All six we’re working from a swing stage that was built for two people when the scaffold collapsed, sending four of the workers plummeting 13 storeys to their deaths.

In a previous proceeding in 2012, Metron Construction Corp., pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death. The company was fined $750,000 as a result. That case marked the first time Ontario’s Criminal Code was used to hold a company responsible for a worker’s death. Subsequently, a director of Metron was also fined $90,000 four OHS Act convictions.

The fine against Swing N Scaff Inc. was imposed by Judge Mara B. Greene, and a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge was added to every one of the fines against those responsible.

Ontario Conducting Summer Construction Blitz

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

MOLThe latest safety blitz by the Ontario Ministry of Labour is underway, and will continue through the rest of July and the entire  month of August, so employers in the construction field should be prepared.

Specifically, this blitz is focused on fall hazards at construction sites, which are the leading cause of critical injuries and fatalities in the province. Inspectors will be making visits to many construction sites, to make sure that everyone involved, including employers, supervisors and workers, is compliant with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations. They will primarily be targeting those workplaces with a high frequency of fall injuries, as well as those with a history of non-compliance. They will also respond to complaints. But even those construction sites with a good safety record could receive a visit. Inspectors will pay particular attention to making sure prevention policies and programs are in place, and that safe work practices are being followed.

More particularly, Ministry of Labour inspectors will pay close attention to openings in workplace surfaces, to make sure they have guardrails and protective coverings in place. They will also make sure that workers who use ladders, platforms and mobile stands receive proper supervision and have been properly trained. And, of course, they will make sure all workers are equipped with proper safety devices, including the fall protection systems and personal protective equipment required to keep them safe.

Ontario Ministry of Labour inspectors have conducted 65 inspection blitzes and more than 340,000 field visits since June 2008 and, as a result, they have issued more than 550,000 compliance orders. In 2013 alone, 16 Ontario workers died and 134 were critically injured in accidents in the construction sector.

Newfoundland and Labrador Company and Supervisor Face Charges

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

AmbulanceIn Newfoundland and Labrador, a Corner Brook company and one of its supervisors face charges under the provincial  Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations  for an industrial accident in which an employee lost a finger.

The accident occurred  on June 7, 2011, at the Atlantic Minerals Ltd. facility in the Brake’s Cove area of Corner Brook, when the  press portion of a concrete block machine activated unexpectedly and crushed the worker’s right hand. The damage to the hand was so severe as to require the amputation of one finger.

After an investigation into the incident, the company now faces five charges for violations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations. Among the violations are; the alleged failure, as an employer, to provide a safe workplace and to ensure that machine maintenance was done according to manufacturer’s instructions; failure to ensure that machines were guarded to prevent access and locked out to prevent injury due to unexpected startup.

In addition to the charges against the company, the supervisor also faces a charge for failure to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all workers under his supervision.

Ontario Construction Supervisor Personally Fined $30,000 for OH&S Violations

Monday, August 13th, 2012

It’s not only companies that should be concerned about the negative effects of ignoring safe working practices on their bottom line. Supervisors who don’t follow the rules also have a lot to lose.


Take, for example, the recent case in the Ontario Court of Justice in which an Uxbridge, Ontario construction company president was fined $30,000 for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act for his part in an accident in which a worker was killed. The fines weren’t based on his position as company president, but on his role as project supervisor.


The incident that led to the hefty fine occurred on December 15, 2009, as his construction company, 474294 Ontario Limited, carrying on business as Northern Machinery Services, was replacing a bridge on the Queen Elizabeth Way over Bronte Creek in Oakville. Company president Barry Wood, was supervising the project. As workers started to remove the concrete deck of the existing bridge, a section of the deck began to collapse. A worker fell and a concrete panel fell on top of him and killed him.


The Ministry of Labour investigation of the accident found that Mr. Wood had been provided with a copy of an engineered procedure for safely cutting and removing concrete from the bridge deck in order to maintain its structural integrity and prevent collapse, but that the procedure hadn’t been followed. To make matters worse, the workers involved in the project were not wearing fall protection at the time of the accident.


Wood pleaded guilty to failing, as a supervisor, to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that workers engaged in the cutting and removal of the bridge deck followed the engineered procedure for that task. He also pleaded guilty to failing, as a supervisor, to ensure that workers exposed to a fall hazard were wearing fall protection. He was fined $20,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for the second. In addition to those fines, Wood also had to pay the court-imposed 25% victim fine surcharge, as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That’s a total of $37,500 in personal penalties.


This fine is significant, since at least one recent study found that more than 50% of OH&S charges against individuals are withdrawn by the Ministry of Labour. That said, the ministry is less likely to withdraw them in cases where a supervisor was given information regarding proper safety procedures and simply didn’t follow it.

The Time to Post Ontario Ministry of Labour’s New Safety Poster is Now

Friday, June 15th, 2012

The Ontario Ministry of Labour (MoL) is in the process of distributing free workplace posters titled “Health & Safety at Work – Prevention Starts Here” in English, French and 15 other languages to employers all over the province.  According to Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, those employers who receive the poster will be required to post it in their workplaces immediately. The MOL has said that its inspectors will “begin enforcing the requirement” on October 1, 2012.


Employers who would rather not wait have the option to download and print the poster from the MoL’s website here.  The poster can be printed in black and white or colour and must be posted in print size of at least 8.5 by 11 inches


The poster summarizes workers’ health and safety rights and responsibilities, as well as the responsibilities of their employers and supervisors. It also reminds employers they are forbidden from taking action against workers for following the act or raising workplace health and safety concerns, and seeking enforcement of the OHSA. It also encourages workers to get involved in health and safety and explains when and why to contact the Ministry of Labour.


The poster was created after an expert advisory panel appointed in 2010 found many workers had little or no understanding of the Act, and advised that a health and safety poster be made available in multiple languages.


Any Ontario employers who are considering not putting up the poster yet should know that MoL inspectors will look for it when they arrive at workplaces. By putting up the poster, employers  can show that they are on keeping on top of health and safety law developments.

Town Fined $60,000 After Worker Injured

Monday, June 11th, 2012

A Town in Ontario was recently fined $60,000 for a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act after an incident in which a young worker was injured.


The accident that led to the fine occurred on August 25, 2011, as summer students working for the town were repairing the lids of catch basins. The catch basin is the part of the storm drain that collects debris. One of the workers would lift each catch basin lid with a pickaxe so that another worker could apply tape to the basin. As should have been predictable, in one case, as one worker’s hand was in the basin, the lid slipped from the pickaxe and crushed that worker’s hand.


An investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour revealed that the workers on this project had no direct supervisor. Not only that, but the young workers had also not been instructed in the safe way to perform the work. Instead, a manager gave them a quick list of instructions before sending them out to repair the catch basins unsupervised.


The Town was fined $60,000 for failing to provide adequate information and instruction to the workers on how to safely repair the catch basins. The fine, which was imposed by Justice of the Peace Lena Mills, was accompanied by a 25% victim fine surcharge, as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.


Construction Company Fined $225,000 for Explosion that Killed Homeowner

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

On March 7, Contractor Aecon Construction Group Inc. was hit with a fine of $225,000 as a result of a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, stemming from a September 2008 explosion that killed a homeowner.

Union Gas Ltd. was preparing to provide natural gas service to residential neighborhoods outside of Owen Sound in the summer and fall of 2008, and they contracted Aecon to install natural gas lines. At least one of the homes being serviced had a private propane service on the property, including a storage tank and buried supply lines.

Aecon went to the home to begin installation of the natural gas line, even though the propane line had not been marked and was still in service that morning. As they attempted to install the natural gas line, the blade of an underground plough severed the unmarked propane line, causing the propane to leak through the soil and foundation of the house into the basement.

The next day, one of the homeowners went into the basement and lit a candle, causing the propane that had accumulated in the basement to ignite, resulting in an explosion and fire. The homeowner was blown out of the house and suffered third-degree burns, and died shortly thereafter.

A Ministry of Labour investigation found that the Aecon supervisor on site was aware of the propane service, but assumed the propane line would not be in the path of the natural gas line. The homeowners had not been present to supervise the location and excavation of the existing service lines.

The company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the owner of the propane service was requested to locate and mark the service prior to the excavation. In addition to the fine, Judge Gary F. Hearn imposed a 25% victim fine surcharge, as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.

Annual Meeting Reaffirms Governments’ Commitment to Well-Being of Workers and Employers

Friday, February 4th, 2011

At an annual meeting held on January 16 and 17 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, federal, provincial and territorial labour ministers discussed a number of issues and reaffirmed their continuing commitment to safe workplaces, to protect workers and employers.

The get-together was co-hosted by the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Canada’s Labour Minister, and the Honourable Jennifer Howard, Minister of Labour and Immigration for Manitoba.

Minister Raitt asserted that the Canadian Government’s top priority was the economy and that “safe and healthy workplaces boost productivity and innovation,” and that “the well-being of workers and employers are key to the success and performance of Canada’s economy.”

According to Minister Howard, “Safe and healthy working environments do not just happen, they require a commitment by governments and everyone at the workplace. … Manitoba has long enjoyed a reputation as a leader in workplace health and safety issues and we want to continue to build on our successes.”

The meeting included discussions of Canada’s international labour activities, and endorsed a renewed strategy for Canada’s work as part of the International Labour Organization. They agreed to work together to develop programs that use social media and other tools to enhance the occupational health and safety of young workers.  They also participated in panel discussions regarding the evolution of work and possible long-range labor policy, with an emphasis on labour relations, employment standards, and mental health in the workplace.

The labour ministers’ meeting is an annual event, but ongoing work continues throughout the year, through the Canadian Association of Administrators of Labour Legislation (CAALL). Established in 1938, CAALL is an association of federal-provincial-territorial departments of labour and heads of occupational health and safety agencies.

Ontario Safety Campaign Will Target Construction Sites

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

The Ontario government recently launched an eight-week health and safety awareness campaign designed to enlighten construction workers and their employers.

They unveiled the campaign at Algonquin College, at the site of the school’s  new construction trades building, which will open to about 2,500 construction trades students next year. The new campaign follows a 90-day safety enforcement blitz of more than 2,800 construction sites.

Even though the province’s lost-time injury rate among construction workers is one of the lowest in Canada, the 90-day blitz revealed numerous violations, including improper equipment use and poor supervisor and worker training. As a result, Ontario officials decided that it was time to emphasize the need for the entire construction industry to learn the importance of safety.

The campaign is being run in Canadian cities with the highest construction activity, including Ottawa.  It is sponsored by the Ministry of Labour, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and the Infrastructure Health & Safety Coalition, and will feature newspaper advertising in the key ethnic languages spoken in the construction sector, and posters will appear on construction fences.  Tip sheets for workers will be available on the ministry’s website at

Another aspect of the campaign revolves around a hope that the public can become more involved in providing information to ministry officials. To that end, a toll free phone number (1-877-202-0008) has been established for the public to call in and report safety issues they see. If a follow-up visit deems a jobsite unsafe, the province can issue a stop-work order in the interests of safety.