Archive for the ‘Supervisors’ Category

OHS Charges Dismissed Against Company

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

legal law justiceA court in Saskatchewan recently let an employer, Saskatchewan Power Corporation, off the hook when it came to violations of occupational health and safety rules when a supervisor acts completely on their own. The decision in this case was made based on the fact that the explosion that led to a worker’s injury and to OHS charges was caused when a supervisor actually defied the employer’s instructions when he used a torch to melt an accumulation of ice in a culvert.

The investigation into the incident discovered that, prior to the accident, there had been a production meeting, during which the supervisor raised the issue of the ice accumulation and openly worried that water might flow over the road in a way that could block access to  a cooling tower at a Saskatchewan Power electrical generating plant. However, during that meeting, the supervisor was told by the production manager to allow the ice to melt on its own. The manager also noted that in the six years he had been there, the road had never washed out.

Despite those orders, however, the supervisor decided to employ a “tiger torch” in an attempt to melt the ice. When the flame of the torch went out, gas accumulated in the culvert, so that, when the supervisor told another worker to relight the torch, there was an explosion, which resulting in that worker being seriously burned on his face, hands and arms.

After the accident, Saskatchewan Power was charged with four violations of the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act regarding inadequate training. The court, however, disagreed, noting that the company had sent the supervisor to a  four-day “supervisory essentials” course and that the injured worker had been trained sufficiently to avoid such an accident. But the court went further, noting that the employer had told the supervisor to not try to melt the ice in the culvert, which meant the employer was essentially off the hook for the OHS violations and the charges were dismissed. According to the court, the employer can’t be held responsible when a supervisor does something that the employer couldn’t possibly have foreseen.


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.

NYC Pulls Engineer’s License

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

underconstructionLast week, the license of a “special inspector,” engineer Steven Schneider, was pulled after an investigation of his methods proved them unsafe. The investigation, which was conducted by the Buildings Department, was triggered by a 2011 incident in which a 54-year-old Ukrainian worker was killed and four others were injured when part of a condo building that was under construction in Brighton Beach collapsed on top of them. Their investigation determined that the steel used in the structure was unstable and the concrete had been poured improperly. This, despite the fact that the contractor on the project had hired Schneider as a special inspector on the project to make sure everything was done safely.

On Friday, at a license hearing, the Buildings Department noted that Schneider was unable to show that he’d performed crucial safety inspections at that tragic job site or at a number of other job sites throughout the city. For example, on another condo job, they obtained a photo of a worker standing in the pit of a foundation that “clearly showed unsafe underpinning, which posed a collapse threat to workers.” Even though Schneider was the special inspector on that job, he never reported the incident to the city, which he was required to do under the law.

On a number of other projects, investigators found that Schneider “routinely” signed off on special inspections of job sites before they were completed and that he rarely “performed any of the proper structural tests as required by code,” including tests for structural stability and tests of masonry and structural steel.

After permanently revoking Schneider’s license, the Buildings Department referred the case to the state “for further disciplinary action.”

Training Gap Brings $130,000 in Fines

Monday, January 11th, 2016

More Worker TrainingProfessional Valve Service Ltd., a company that repairs and maintains vacuum valves for various industries, and one of their supervisors have significantly less money now, after pleading guilty last week for failing to train a worker and were hit with a total of $130,000 in fines for an accident in which a worker died while performing maintenance at Fort Vale.

The accident happened on February 10, 2014, when the worker was maintaining a vacuum valve at the company’s plant in Sarnia. The process involved using a modified version of the manufacturer’s procedure for disassembling the valve, involving the use of a drill press to remove the valve cap, which meant that, if pressure was suddenly released, the equipment would be contained by the press and the operator’s body would not be above the threaded rod.

When the accident happened, the worker was disassembling the valve alone, so there were no witnesses, but at some point, the threaded rod was released from an internal nut and the resultant pressure drove it through the worker’s head. He was found soon after the accident by a co-worker and died in hospital died two days later.

This was just the second time this particular worker had worked on one of these valves. He had been with Professional Valve for less than six months and had no similar experience previously, but he had never received any formal training on maintaining the valves because a company supervisor, Joe Heynsbergen, assumed that he already knew what he was doing.

Professional Valve Service Ltd. pleaded guilty to failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the safety of the worker. For that, they were fined $125,000. For his part, Heynsbergen also pleaded guilty and was fined an $5,000 individually. The sentence and the penalties were handed out by Justice of the Peace Anna Hampson in Sarnia court. The fines were also accompanied by a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.

In all, a supervisor has to pay $6,000 and his company has $137,500 less in its bottom line, just because a supervisor simply assumed a worker was properly trained when he wasn’t. Another example showing that training workers doesn’t cost a company money, it pays.

Study Shows Both “Presenteeism” and Absenteeism are Problems

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

KnowledgeA new report has been released from employee benefits experts suggesting that a significant majority of Canadian workers are generally pretty inattentive while at work, and that employers will really have to address this issue at some point because it makes the workplace less safe.

The report, which is entitled “The True Picture of Workplace Absenteeism,” uses the term “presenteeism” to describe the time spent at the workplace while not being productively engaged in work, and their research found that fully 80 per cent of respondents self-reported having experienced time spent at their workplace while not being productively engaged in work. Just as troubling, 81 per cent of respondents knew they could not perform their work as well as they would’ve liked, but went into work anyway. Among the reasons cited include physical illness (47 per cent), stress or anxiety (40 per cent) and issues or problems with coworkers are managers (22 per cent). In fact, approximately 15 per cent specifically cited depression as a reason for going into work and being unproductive.

The study interviewed more than 1,300 Canadians workers, employers and physicians to get these results. Researchers concluded that both absenteeism and presenteeism can greatly contribute to an increased risk of accidents that cause worker injuries or health problems. When workers are absent, often times their co-workers may be expected to do extra work to compensate, and that can lead to excessive fatigue, missed breaks or overtime hours. In some cases, employers choose to replace the absentee worker with a contract worker, who may not be properly trained or have the experience of the worker they are replacing. Keeping a workplace safe requires all the links in the chain being fully present and strong.

Researchers also suggested that dealing with absenteeism in a punitive manner is not the best way to deal with it. Instead, the employer should see the absenteeism as a sign that something is going on and they should collaborate with that worker to improve the overall health of the workplace and possibly eliminate the reason for the absence.

The report is available online here. There are a number of other interesting findings in this report, including the news that 56 per cent of workers tend to be unaware that their employer offers employee-assistance programs and 43 per cent don’t feel their employer provides an environment that supports mental wellness on the job.

Study: Supervisors Should Listen to Young Workers

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Young peopleIt’s almost that time, when teens all over Saskatchewan and elsewhere start summer jobs, to make money for themselves and their families. It’s a tradition that many parents encourage, for good reason; it prepares them for the real world, after school and childhood are finished. A new study published by the University of Regina is suggesting that the workplace your teen chooses may not be as safe as it could be, in part because supervisors often do not encourage young workers to speak up when they see something wrong.

The study suggests that even teens as young as 15 or 16 have some solid suggestions as to how workplace safety can be improved, but they don’t speak up, except under certain very specific conditions, such as when they felt an emotional attachment to the workplace. Of course, that observation throws cold water on two notions that many employers have; that inexperienced teens don’t think about how they can do a job safely, and that they’re not committed to part-time summer jobs.

Researchers found that the young workers most likely to speak up are those with a supervisor they feel cares about them and who seems genuinely interested in their ideas to promote worker safety. Not only that, but they found that young workers who felt comfortable expressing their concerns also are injured far less often than the teens who perceived their supervisor as indifferent or even somewhat hostile to their concerns.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology and was funded by the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba, surveyed 155 Manitoba workers between the ages of 15 and 19. Most of the teens in the survey worked in restaurants and food service operations and grocery and retail stores, but researchers believe the results can translate to many other professions as well.

And it matters, given the number of young workers who are injured in workplaces all over Canada. According to the Association of Workers Compensation Boards, in 2013 alone, more than 30,000 people between 15 and 24 were injured on the job throughout Canada, with young men at the highest risk. Researchers believe many of those injuries could have been prevented with better job training and more awareness on the part of young workers as to their right to speak up about safety.

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.