Posts Tagged ‘Due Diligence’

Inquest Examines Machine Safety Devices

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

A coroner’s inquest was held late last month, looking into the death of worker Roger Hill, who died from severe injuries after being trapped in a rock crusher. The inquest determined that the tragedy was at least partly caused by missing and ineffective safety mechanisms on the rock crusher.

The accident happened late in the afternoon of January 21, 2008 at a Ridgemount Quarries site in Fort Erie, Ontario owned by Walker Industries in Thorold, Ontario, which had a contract with the now-defunct Hard Rock Group of Companies (the worker’s employer) to set up a portable crushing plant at the site.

According to coroner’s counsel Graeme Leach, at about 4 pm on that day, a massive rotor weighing several tons – with outer bars capable of spinning at 100 miles per hour – stopped working. Hill and two co-workers each took turns trying to get the machine restarted. Unfortunately, the clutch re-engaged while Hill and a supervisor were still in the impactor chamber.

According to Leach, several safety violations contributed to the accident. Lockout and tagout procedures were not followed and the engine in the impactor chamber was left running.  Also, while Hard Rock Group safety procedures mandated that a “safety bar” be placed between the bars of the rotor to prevent spinning,  the company had “two impactors, but only one bar, so the bar would be shared between the two and the bar was off-site on the day of the incident.”

The crusher was also equipped with a limit switch, which had become inoperable. “If it had been working properly, it should have automatically killed the fuel to the engine. … The evidence in my mind was unclear if it had been broken and just never repaired or had been deliberately tampered with.”

As a result of the inquest, the coroner’s jury issued nine recommendations, including:

  • That the Ministry of Labour (MOL), Infrastructure Health and Safety Association and provincial safe work organizations (SWOs) continue to work together to educate workers, supervisors and employers on the “extreme importance” of compliance with ‘lock and tag‘ procedures and maintaining and testing equipment safety features by referencing the potentially tragic consequences of failing to do so;
  • That MOL and SWOs review the effectiveness of the Internal Responsibility System and undertake an mandatory audit of surface mining operations to ensure that senior employer representatives conduct routine and regular safety checks on employees at remote workplace locations (with the results reported to SWOs when safety deficiencies are discovered);
  • That the MOL and Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities work together to develop a system to track what mandatory OH&S training workers have and alert workers, employers and the MOL “when workers have not completed mandatory training within the required time periods;”
  • That the MOL continue conducting regular spot checks of all safety features of dangerous equipment and consider imposing an obligation on employers to periodically certify that safety features have been tested and are in good working order;
  • That the MOL investigate the feasibility that where ‘lock and tag’ equipment is deficient or absent, an immediate stop work order be issued.
  • That all surface mining workers be required to have core training and, if mandated, specialty training modules prior to workers being permitted to commence work on a surface mine;
  • That the number of inspectors for surface mining be increased; and, consider the requirement for a minimum number of workers before an oh&s committee or designation of a safety representative is mandatory.

Three Easily Preventable Accidents = Three Poorer Companies

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

The Ontario courts were busy last week, and in the space of four days, worker accidents cost three companies a lot of money.  Take a look at the details of each accident; every one of them was easily preventable with just some basic safety training and worker awareness.

1. In one case, elevator and escalator manufacturer Kone Inc. was fined $90,000 for a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act that caused a worker to be injured.

The fine was for an incident that occurred on September 11, 2008, when a worker was repairing an elevator circuit board at the University of Western Ontario. The worker stood on a ladder in the pit and shaft area of the elevator while the elevator’s power was still on. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the worker wasn’t using rubber gloves, mats, shields, or other equipment to protect against electrical shock. Of course, when the worker touched the back of the circuit board, the resultant electric shock caused him to fall to the concrete floor of the pit, resulting in wrist and facial fractures.

Kone Inc. pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the worker used rubber gloves, mats, shields and other protective equipment and procedures adequate to ensure protection from electrical shock and burns.

2.  In another case, a $60,000 fine was imposed on Tri City Materials Ltd., a company that works with aggregates, after it, too, pleaded guilty for a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act that caused an injury to a worker.

The incident that led to this fine occurred on December 30, 2008. A worker was cleaning out a trailer that acted as a hopper for various materials. Because the hopper’s chute needed power to stay open, the truck attached to the trailer was left running.  Unfortunately, when another worker shut off the truck during the cleaning process, the chute gate immediately closed and caught the worker’s leg.

A Ministry of Labour investigation found that the company’s procedure for safely cleaning the trailer required that it be locked out with its chute gate manually wedged open. They determined that the worker was improperly trained, and was unfamiliar with this procedure or the hazards associated with cleaning out the trailer.

Tri City Materials Ltd. pleaded guilty to failing to acquaint the worker with the hazards associated with cleaning out the trailer.

3. Within days of the above fines, Abitibi Consolidated Company of Canada, owner and operator of a paper mill in Fort Frances, was slapped with a $125,000 fine for their violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act for an accident that injured two workers and a student.

That incident occurred on August 20, 2008, when two of the paper mill’s electricians were changing the power box for part of a paper machine. In this case, the power to the box itself was locked out, but the power to the cabinet containing the box was not shut off or locked out. As the electricians removed the power box, they noticed a cable inside the cabinet that needed to be moved, so one of them reached into the cabinet with a metal tool to remove a clamp holding the cable in place. In doing so, the tool made electrical contact with a live conductor inside the cabinet, creating an arc flash, which in turn caused another arc flash from the live conductors overhead.

The accident caused both electricians to suffer first, second and third degree burns. At the same time, a student who was standing nearby and watching them suffered first degree burns.

Abitibi Consolidated Company of Canada pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that a tool was not used near a live electrical installation to prevent electrical contact with a live conductor.

In addition to the $275,000 in fines in the three cases above, the court also 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. That puts the total cost to these three companies at more than $343,000, all for accidents that could have been prevented with a little health and safety awareness.

Proper health and safety training doesn’t cost. It pays.

Phony Trainers Target Small Business

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

It certainly pays to do a little research before signing on the dotted line…

It seems that a company has been calling small business owners in Nova Scotia and other parts of Canada, and causing them to scratch their heads and call the Department of Labour and Workforce Development for answers.

Numerous business owners have recently reported having been approached by a vendor claiming to offer a new training program based on what it claims are recent changes to the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System regarding the retraining of workers.

The problem is, of course, that the information they are giving is bogus. According to the government’s Occupational Health and Safety division leadership, there haven’t actually been any recent changes and they warn companies to be wary of anyone claiming to have information about new safety programs. While they note that any training that boosts awareness of occupational health and safety is good, business owners should use proper caution when evaluating training programs.

In many jurisdictions, any occupational health and safety service providers who provide people with inaccurate information could be subject to fines.

Boom Truck Operator Injured in Windsor Parking Garage Collapse

Monday, July 12th, 2010

The mayor of Windsor, Ontario, Eddie Francis, declared a state of emergency July 8 after a parking garage collapsed at about 10:40 a.m., crushing numerous cars and sending one person to hospital. The state of emergency allowed the city access to provincial emergency response teams to delve into the wreckage to help search for any victims.

According to witnesses, the only man injured was the operator of a boom truck near a building entrance. He was using the boom truck to prepare for the commencement of building maintenance work when the pavement under his truck gave way. The collapse caused the operator to be thrown from his cab, and he was hanging by his safety belt when rescue workers arrived at the scene. They quickly used a pulley system to lift him to safety, fitted him with a neck brace and transported him to hospital.

Search dogs and a camera-equipped robot combed through the rubble of the underground structure to look for victims. Thankfully, the dogs found no one in the lower levels.

The aftermath of the collapse was a remarkable sight, according to witnesses. Several vehicles that had been parked on the ground level were leaning into the hole, while others sat precariously on yellow steel pillars. As time passed, the hole slowly grew bigger and the cars slid farther in.

A nearby apartment building was evacuated as a precaution, with tenants put up in nearby hotels until the building could be declared safe.

Municipal officials refused to speculate on the cause of the accident, but noted that the parking lot had a lot of cars, and that the likely cause was that the structure wasn’t capable of handling the load. The boom truck weighs about 10,000 kilograms.

Federal Government Invests in Literacy and Skills Development for Workplace Safety

Friday, July 9th, 2010

The Federal Government has made a major investment in a literacy and essential skills development project designed to help Canadian manufacturing workers and businesses make their workers more productive and keep them safer.  The program hopes to identify best practices and create tools to help businesses incorporate critical skills in their training programs.

As the Government sees things, Improving adult Canadians’ literacy and essential skills is a key part of the its commitment to creating the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world. The Office of Literacy and Essential Skills was created in order to help increase the literacy and essential skills of adult Canadians.

Skills shortages remain a significant challenge for the Canadian economy, but beginning with an initial investment of over $38 million in 2010–2011, it is hoped that the Office can create an environment in which Canadians have the literacy and essential skills they need to participate fully in the labour market and in their communities.

In addition to providing funding and conducting research, the Government’s Office of Literacy and Essential Skills works with provincial and territorial governments, as well as non-profit organizations across Canada, to help employers, practitioners and trainers incorporate literacy and essential skills into their training programs.

Consider Defibrillators to Save Lives

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Is your workplace prepared for every possible emergency? Hopefully, you have policies, procedures and equipment in place to keep your workers safe from accidents and workplace violence. But what if a worker simply turns blue and collapses from a heart attack? Surely, you have at least a few workers who know CPR, but what if the CPR isn’t enough? Wouldn’t it be great if other employees were able to grab an automated external defibrillator (AED) and could revive that worker within minutes?

An AED is a small, portable device that assesses the heart of a person in cardiac arrest for a “shockable” rhythm. If such a rhythm is detected, a button is pressed to deliver a shock or series of shocks to the victim’s heart, which then allow the heart to return to a normal rhythm.

Several companies are making a push to see to it that such machines are available  everywhere, but at this point, AEDs are still relatively rare in workplaces throughout Canada, in part because Canada doesn’t mandate their use.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, more than 40,000 people suffer  cardiac arrests in Canada each year. Fewer than 5% of those who suffer an attack outside a hospital survive — and roughly 70% of cardiac arrests occur outside a hospital. Their studies have shown that workplaces with 2,000 employees and an average age of 40 can expect at least one cardiac arrest incident every year.

Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has reported that there have been 200 claims for workplace heart attacks over the last three years. Since not all heart attacks that occur in the workplace are job related, the WSIB considers each case on its own merits.

According to studies, keeping an AED onsite can increase the chance of survival from heart attack by 75% or more over CPR on its own. Defibrillation is more successful if performed within five minutes of cardiac arrest and survival chances decrease 10% for every minute that passes after the arrest.

Those who think the devices are just too expensive should know that prices have dropped dramatically in recent years, with units priced well under $2,000 now. Most units can be installed without professional assistance. AEDs are battery powered and the batteries are not rechargeable, so they don’t require a power supply.  For maintenance, they only require daily spot checks to ensure the status indicator light is on, and monthly checks to make sure the unit is in good working order. Batteries, which currently cost about $200-300, last 3-5 years. The pads, which currently run between $70-100 per pair, only have to be replaced when used.

It is necessary to train employees on how to use AEDs, but the training is not difficult or intensive. The Heart and Stroke Foundation suggests that anyone with a Grade 6 education can learn to use an AED in 20 minutes. In order to reduce liability risks, the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends companies ensure operators have medical oversight, ensure certain members of staff are properly trained and that protocols for continued training, operation and equipment maintenance are in place. The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends that all employees, if possible, have the skills necessary to perform CPR and the use of an AED.

Vancouver Demolition Gone Wrong

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Vancouver officials are investigating a building demolition in which two walls and a lamp collapsed onto the street, barely missing a flagperson and several cars.

Unfortunately, the incident, which occurred at 5:30 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon during a demolition being conducted by Global Excavation and Demolition, was caught on video, and several of the videos have gone viral on YouTube, raising questions about the company’s safety procedures.  The company, however, claims the situation was “under control” and suggested that in any demolition, “sometimes things happen that are out of your control.” Karmjeet Singh Panesar, one of the owners of Global Excavation and Demolition,  was apparently operating the crane at the time.

One video (see below), taken from a high angle, shows one wall of 1102 Hornby St. collapsing onto Helmcken Street.  Seemingly undeterred, the operator continued to work, and proceeded to follow that up by knocking down an adjacent wall, part of which fell onto Hornby Street and took out a lamp post.

This is not their first incident. The company has received six compliance orders in the last three years, including one for an excavation. They currently have one other demolition permit for Vancouver, but that has been put on hold while city officials and WorkSafeBC review the company’s safety practices.  The YouTube videos will be used as evidence in the investigation.

The company has promised to pay for replacement of the $4,000 lamp post.

Here is the video of the first collapse:

And here is the video of the second:

Dump Truck Hits Power Line; Workers Escape Injury

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

In yet another accident demonstrating the danger of working near overhead power lines, workers at a construction site in Dieppe, New Brunswick had a close call when their dump truck struck some lines. Thankfully, this time no one was hurt.

The accident occurred as two dump trucks were being used as part of a road construction project. The operator of one dump truck situated his truck underneath the power line, and when a hydro line lifted the box of his vehicle, it contacted and snapped the line, and the snapped line  landed on a smaller dump truck, which caught fire.

WorkSafeNB is conducting an investigation into the incident to determine if there were any infractions under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The workers were employees of Cherryfield Contracting Ltd, which was contracted by the City of Dieppe for the construction work.

Despite the fact that there were no injuries, every precaution was taken to put out the fire, so that all workers remained safe. In fact, firefighters refused to put out the fire for about an hour because the power line was still live.

This incident happened less than two weeks after an employee of Ken Miller Excavating in Brockville, Ontario was electrocuted when his boom truck struck the power line at a construction site, as he delivered concrete sections for storm sewers.

Bill 168 is Now Law: One Third of Ontario Businesses Not Ready

Monday, June 21st, 2010

You knew it was coming.

June 15th has come and gone, and Bill 168, which amends the Occupational Health and Safety Act with respect to violence and harassment in the workplace and other matters, is now law.

The purpose of the Bill 168 amendments is to protect workers from inappropriate behaviour at work, including everything from offensive remarks to outright violence, and to reduce incidences of workplace harassment. The new law requires employers to develop policies and programs covering these issues, to train employees to ensure that policies are followed, and to create mechanisms for employees to report incidents and a process for investigating and dealing with such incidents or complaints.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act defines workplace violence as the exercise of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker. Because the definition includes the phrase “could cause,” verbal or written threats of violence can fall under the new law. In addition, seemingly potentially violent action might require an employer to investigate and handle the situation. This might include one employee shaking his fist at another, throwing an object in another worker’s direction or kicking something that another worker is standing on.

Workplace harassment is also covered by the new law, and is defined as any behaviour that is known or that a reasonable person would consider to be unwelcome. Harassment may involve unwelcome words or actions commonly known to be offensive, embarrassing, humiliating or demeaning to a worker or group of workers. If behaviour is in any way considered Intimidating, isolating or discriminatory, it would qualify as harassing behaviour under the law. Such harassment often involves repeated actions or patterns of behaviour, and they can include mean jokes told at a worker’s expense, or the display of images that are inappropriate for the workplace.

Unfortunately, according to a survey conducted by The Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) of its members, nearly one-third of them were not ready to comply with the new law. HRPA surveyed 605 of its members between June 2 – 11, and found that 32% responded that their business would not meet its obligations before the June 15th deadline. The survey also revealed that 53% of respondents said the greatest challenge they faced would be to implement the legislation’s mandatory employee training and workplace violence reporting and investigation procedure requirements.  This despite the fact that, in a previous HRPA survey taken last summer, 75% of respondents supported the legislation.

If you are one of those companies that falls within that 32%, the Ministry of Labour wants to make it clear that they intend to enforce the new law, and suggest specific steps employers must take to comply, in order to protect workers from violence and harassment:

  • Develop workplace violence and harassment policies, and develop and maintain programs to implement those new policies;
  • Provide appropriate training to workers, so that they know these policies and programs and what they mean.
  • Develop measures and procedures for calling for and receiving immediate assistance when workplace violence occurs or is likely to occur;
  • Develop processes for reporting incidents ; and
  • Conduct risk assessments and take steps to control those risks identified during the assessment.

If you need some assistance in understanding the new law, take a look at the following:

Workplace Violence and Harassment: Understanding the Law

Preventing Workplace Violence And Workplace Harassment

BC Tribunal Grants Stay of Safety Fine

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal of British Columbia (WCAT) has granted an unnamed commercial construction company a stay of a decision that imposed an administrative penalty of nearly $40,000 on the company.

WCAT vice-chair Heather McDonald allowed the stay of a WorkSafeBC administrative penalty of $38,569.34 – which was upheld by a WorkSafeBC review officer – after ruling that paying the fine would likely cause serious financial harm to the company.

In the decision to stay the fine, McDonald wrote, “A stay is an extraordinary remedy. … The employer’s financial situation is very poor and the prospect of paying a significant penalty of over $30,000.00 will likely place the employer into bankruptcy. In all, I find that the circumstances of this case illustrate exceptional circumstances that justify granting the extraordinary remedy of a stay to the employer.”

The ruling granting the stay comes after a March 30, 2010 decision against the employer, which was the prime contractor on a multi-employer construction site in October, 2008, when a WorkSafeBC safety officer visited the work site and issued a series of orders relating to the company’s failure to: remedy workplace conditions that are hazardous to the health and safety of workers; establish a safety system; and, as prime contractor, ensure that the occupational health and safety activities of everyone at the workplace were coordinated. In addition, other orders were issued, involving specific violations, such as the presence of a number of damaged electrical cords; walkways obstructed by debris; and fall hazards.

The decision notes that, when determining whether or not to issue a stay, WCAT typically considers, among other factors: whether the appeal, on its face, appears to have merit; whether the applicant would likely suffer serious harm if the stay were not granted (for example, loss of a business); and, whether granting a stay would likely endanger worker safety. In its view, the employer provided convincing evidence that it is in an extremely difficult financial position currently, noting that the company’s year end June 30, 2009 net loss exceeded $350,000.00, and that paying the penalty at the current time would likely force the company to cease operations.  “This prospect of likely bankruptcy proceedings and closure of the business brings into the picture the factor of irreparable harm, not just serious harm,” the decision reads.