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Total fines now $1.24 million in Christmas Eve fatalities after swing stage company and director fined

The total of safety fines paid for the December 24, 2009 swing stage collapse fatalities is now $1,240,000 after Swing N Scaff Inc., the company that supplied the swing stage platform (a suspended work platform), was fined $350,000.00 and a director of Swing N Scaff was fined $50,000.00 under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Four parties have now been convicted and fined as a result of this tragic accident: Metron Construction Corporation, a director of Metron, Swing N Scaff and a director of Swing N Scaff.

The Ministry of Labour states, in its press release, that at least six workers were on the swing stage suspended 13 floors above the ground when it broke apart in the middle and collapsed.  Ministry of Labour investigators found that the welds on the platform were inadequate.  Tragically, four workers died.

Swing N Scaff pleaded guilty to the Occupational Health and Safety Act offence of failing to ensure that a suspended platform and/or a component supplied to Metron Construction was in good condition.

The director of Swing N Scaff pleaded guilty to failing to take all reasonable care to ensure a suspended platform was in good condition and that a platform weighing more than 525 kilograms was designed by a professional engineer in accordance with good engineering practice.

Previously, Metron Construction was fined $750,000.00 for criminal negligence under the “Bill C-45″ amendments to the Criminal Code; that amount was increased on appeal from the $200,000.00 fine set by the trial justice.  Metron’s Criminal Code liability resulted from the actions of its site supervisor, who Metron admitted was a “senior officer” of Metron, so that his actions were taken to be the actions of Metron.  The site supervisor had directed and/or permitted six workers to work on the swing stage when he knew or should have known that it was unsafe to do so; directed and/or permitted the six workers to board the swing stage knowing that only two lifelines were available; and permitted persons under the influence of drugs to work on the project.

A director of Metron Construction was previously fined $90,000.00 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to ensure that non-English speaking workers received written material in their native languages and failing to ensure that training records were maintained; failing to ensure that the swing stage was not defective or hazardous (by allowing it to be used without having received any of the required information with respect to its capacity and use); and failing to ensure that the swing stage was not loaded in excess of the load that the platform was designed and constructed to bear.

The Ministry of Labour’s press release on the Swing N Scaff fine may be read here.

Total fines now $1.24 million in Christmas Eve fatalities after swing stage company and director fined

Failing to correct hazards, pay OSHA fines gets U.S. business owner taken into custody

An Illinois business owner has been taken into custody after his business failed to correct serious trenching hazards and pay Occupational Safety and Health Administration penalties.  The case illustrates the personal risk to business owners and executives who neglect occupational health and safety legislation.

An April 2013 statement from OSHA said that the business owner had been cited for “seven safety violations, including three willful, for failing to protect workers from cave-ins and moving soil and chunks of asphalt during trenching operations.”

A U.S. judge granted a motion filed by the U.S. Secretary of Labor against the owner, a sewer and water contractor.  OSHA states the business owner had a “long history of failing to comply with OSHA standards and orders of the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission”.

OSHA reports that the court had previously issued an enforcement order against the owner and when he failed to comply, the court held him in contempt.  Then, after receiving no response from the owner, the court granted the Secretary of Labor’s motion to take “coercive actions”, ordering him placed into the custody of the Attorney General.

OSHA says that the owner will remain in custody until he has either fully complied with the court’s enforcement order or demonstrated that he is unable to comply.

OHSA’s statement on this matter may be read here.

Failing to correct hazards, pay OSHA fines gets U.S. business owner taken into custody

New Ontario Safety Blitz Targets Large Number of Industrial Workplaces

The Ontario Ministry of Labour will conduct a safety blitz of industrial workplaces from November 3rd to December 14th, 2014.

Although the MOL’s bulletin regarding this blitz does not say it, employers should ensure that all of their health and safety postings are up, and that all workers have received the mandatory health and safety awareness training; inspectors will likely be checking those items.

The MOL states that its inspectors will “visit wood and metal fabrication, manufacturing, chemical and plastics and automotive plants and other industrial sector workplaces.”  This description includes a large number of workplaces.

The inspectors will be checking for machines that are not properly guarded, locked out or blocked.  The MOL says that inspectors will also check that workplaces have a strong internal responsibility system in place; that employers are “working to prevent awkward postures and repetitive motions that could lead to musculoskeletal disorders involving injuries and disorders of the muscles, tendons, nerves, joints and spinal discs”; and that workers are protected from exposure to chemicals (such as metalworking fluids and degreasing solvents) that could cause occupational disease.

The MOL’s Bulletin on the blitz may be accessed here.

New Ontario Safety Blitz Targets Large Number of Industrial Workplaces

B.C. Appeal Court Clarifies Workplace Accident Reporting Obligations

The employer of the injured worker, not the owner of the workplace, was required to report the worker’s injury, the B.C. Court of Appeal has held, in a decision that clarifies employers’ accident reporting obligations.

The worker was injured while working on a powerline owned by British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority. The worker worked for a contractor to B.C. Hydro.

The Workers’ Compensation Board of British Columbia issued an order citing B.C. Hydro for failing to report the accident. The order referred to section 172(1)(a) of the Workers Compensation Act, which provides:

“An employer must immediately notify the Board of the occurrence of any accident that (a) resulted in serious injury to or the death of a worker”.

B.C. Hydro argued that it was not the worker’s “employer”. The Board maintained that the reporting obligation applied to “an employer” – not just the employer of the injured worker. “An employer”, said the Board, should include the owner of the worksite because it had a significant connection to the worksite and was in the best position to provide the timeliest notification to the Board.

The court decided that the Board’s decision was unreasonable. B.C. Hydro was not legally required to report the accident to the Board.  The Act did not impose a duty on owners to report accidents. Further, requiring owners to report accidents under s. 172(1)(a) would effectively require owners to carry out other obligations of “employers” under the Act including investigating the accident, preparing an accident report, and taking corrective actions. The legislature could not have intended to impose all of those obligations on owners.

In conclusion, the worker’s employer was required to report the accident to the Board, but B.C. Hydro was not.

Although the B.C. Court of Appeal did not mention the Ontario Court of Appeal’s recent Blue Mountain Resorts Limited  decision, which dealt with accident reporting obligations in Ontario, both decisions attempt to bring clarity and consistency to the government’s interpretation of accident-reporting requirements.

British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority v. Workers’ Compensation Board of British Columbia, 2014 BCCA 353 (CanLII)

B.C. Appeal Court Clarifies Workplace Accident Reporting Obligations

MOL safety blitz results show many new businesses non-compliant with basic requirements

The results of a recent Ontario Ministry of Labour safety blitz shows many new small businesses violate basic legal requirements such as posting a copy of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  And non-compliant employers can expect future visits from MOL inspectors.

The MOL says that between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014, its inspectors visited new small businesses in the industrial sector that had fewer than 20 workers.  The MOL says that it focused on “businesses that had registered with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), but had no prior contact with the ministry.”

Some of the  most common compliance orders issued by MOL inspectors in the blitz were: post a copy of the Occupational Health and Safety Act; prepare a health and safety policy and maintain a program; have a worker health and safety representative; have the health and safety representative conduct monthly inspections; provide “information and instruction” on workplace harassment; and maintain a workplace violence prevention program.

The MOL states that inspectors visited workplaces in the industrial sector including retail establishments, restaurants, wood and metal fabrication establishments, industrial services, wholesalers, automotive manufacturers and vehicle sales and service workplaces.

The MOL’s  enforcement initiative is being repeated in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, with each MOL industrial inspector expected to inspect four to eight small businesses with 50 or fewer workers, which have not been previously registered or inspected by the ministry. The MOL says that this initiative will “increase small business awareness of the workplace parties’ roles and responsibilities under OHSA and its regulations”, “promote awareness and compliance with new mandatory occupational health and safety training for workers and supervisors that came into effect on July 1, 2014″, and “support vulnerable workers by making them aware of their rights under the OHSA and the resources available to help them”.

As we have previously advised, employers should, in particular, ensure that they prepare and post all required postings under the OHSA, since doing so will show the MOL inspector that the employer is aware of its basic obligations and has a safety program in place.  See here for our article on health and safety posting requirements in Ontario.

MOL safety blitz results show many new businesses non-compliant with basic requirements

MOL inspector’s grievance gives glimpse into MOL’s after-hours accident response process

Ministry of Labour managers have discretion as to whether to send out an inspector when an employer calls after-hours about a workplace accident, a recent decision suggests.

An MOL inspector filed a grievance under his collective agreement claiming that when a call regarding a workplace injury came in at 5:15 pm, the call should have been referred to him and not the on-call MOL manager. The manager had determined that there was no need to send an inspector to the workplace that night.  The accident involved a broken bone which was a “critical injury” (a worker lost her footing and jumped down the last 3 stairs) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The inspector claimed that he would have gone to the workplace, at least to “secure the site”, and would have earned “premium pay” for his time spent on the visit.

A vice-chair of the Grievance Settlement Board noted that the “Ministry Operations Division Policy and Procedures Reference Manual” contemplated that only after-hours calls falling within certain categories including “critical injuries” are forwarded to the inspector on-call, and that the hotline operator could contact an MOL manager if he or she required clarification or direction on any issue.  The manager had the authority to conduct “triage” and not to send an inspector to the workplace that evening.

There was no violation of the collective agreement or of the Reference Manual, so the inspector’s grievance was dismissed.

Ontario Public Service Employees Union (Beaulieu) v Ontario (Labour), 2014 CanLII 40173 (ON GSB)

 

MOL inspector’s grievance gives glimpse into MOL’s after-hours accident response process

“Disgruntled and aggressive clients” posed safety threat under OHSA

An employee who was fired after complaining to the Ministry of Labour that she felt threatened by “disgruntled and aggressive clients” was entitled to damages for the retaliatory discharge, the Ontario Labour Relations Board has decided.

The employee worked for an investment/marketing company.  She tried to speak with a company manager about her concerns with aggressive clients and about having the company develop procedures to deal with matters such as violence and harassment. The manager refused to entertain the suggestions.

The employee then contacted the Ministry of Labour and told the MOL that she felt threatened in the workplace and that her employer had no policies to deal with her concerns.  After a co-worker contacted the MOL with concerns, an MOL inspector came to the workplace and ordered the employer to prepare a violence and harassment policy.  The next day, the company dismissed the employee.

The OLRB accepted that the threat posed by “disgruntled and aggressive clients” was a workplace safety issue under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and that the employee had characterized it as such when she had complained to management.  Also, in the absence of an explanation by the employer (the employer did not attend the OLRB hearing), the OLRB was satisfied that at least part of the company’s reason for dismissing her was her safety complaint.  As such, her termination was an illegal reprisal under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  She found employment quickly, and was entitled to damages in the amount of four weeks’ wages.

Abigail C de los Santos Sands v Moneta Marketing Solutions Inc, 2014 CanLII 33527 (ON LRB)

 

“Disgruntled and aggressive clients” posed safety threat under OHSA

Worker, Caught by MOL Inspector, Given Significant Fine for Safety Violation

An Ontario construction worker has been fined $1,500.00 after jumping from a hoist tower to a nearby roof.  Unfortunately for the worker, a Ministry of Labour inspector saw him do it. 

The worker was wearing a fall protection harness and lanyard, but the lanyard was not tied off.  He was approximately 50 feet above the ground when he jumped.

The worker pleaded guilty to failing to be adequately protected by a method of fall protection while exposed to a fall of more than three metres (9.8 feet).

This case shows that workers can incur significant fines for safety violations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act particularly where, as in this case, death or serious injury could have resulted.

The Ministry of Labour’s press release may be accessed here.

Worker, Caught by MOL Inspector, Given Significant Fine for Safety Violation

MOL Inspector’s “Unclear” Order Required School Board to Revise its Workplace Violence Policy

A Ministry of Labour inspector has ordered an Ontario school board to revise its workplace violence policy, and the Ontario Labour Relations Board has suspended that Order, calling it “unclear”.

The inspector attended at a high school after a worker complained about two incidents at the school.  The inspector concluded that the school had failed to provide workers with “information and instruction concerning persons with a history of violent behaviour”, as required by section 32.0.5(3) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act which section was enacted by Bill 168.  The inspector issued an Order under the Occupational Health and Safety Act requiring the school board to “develop arrangements to provide information to workers” regarding the risk of workplace violence from a person with a history of violent behaviour.

The school board appealed the Order. It argued that the inspector had not specified the basic facts underlining the “two examples” that were mentioned in the Order.

The Ontario Labour Relations Board suspended the Order.  It held that the Order essentially required the school board to comply with the OHSA, which it was already obligated to do.  Also, the school board could be prejudiced if it were required to “comply with an order that is unclear on its face”.  Finally, the OLRB doubted that deference should be given to the Ministry of Labour inspector when the Order was unclear on its face.

This case demonstrates that where Ministry of Labour inspectors do not state the facts underlying their compliance Orders, the employer may have a viable challenge to the Order.  Also, the OLRB will be more likely to suspend an Order when it simply repeats obligations in the OHSA.

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board v Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, 2014 CanLII 13515 (ON LRB)

MOL Inspector’s “Unclear” Order Required School Board to Revise its Workplace Violence Policy

Corporate Director Fined under OHSA in Safety Belt Case

A corporate director of a stucco company has been fined $3,000.00 under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to ensure that workers used safety belts on elevated work platforms.

An inspector caught workers not wearing safety belts attached to the elevated work platforms while using those platforms to perform stucco work on a five-storey office building.  The corporate director also owned the building.

The corporate director pleaded guilty to the charge.

This case is a reminder that corporate directors - not only workers and supervisors – may be charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The Ministry of Labour’s press release may be accessed here.

Corporate Director Fined under OHSA in Safety Belt Case

Filed Late, Appeal of Inspector’s Order Dismissed

A recent Ontario Labour Relations Board decision illustrates the importance of timely filing of appeals of Ministry of Labour inspectors’ orders.  The OLRB confirmed that that it had no authority to hear late-filed appeals.

A Ministry of Labour inspector wrote compliance orders against the employer under the Occupational Health and Safety Act on November 19, 2013.  The employer filed its appeal with the OLRB on December 31, 2013, which was more than 30 calendar days later. 

The employer stated that this was the first time that it has completed an appeal, and had mistakenly understood that faxing appeal documents to the Ministry of Labour inspector was sufficient to start the appeal. 

The OLRB noted that the appeal must be filed with the OLRB, not the Ministry of Labour, within 30 calendar days of the date of the inspector’s Order, and that the appeal form makes that quite clear.  The OLRB stated that “it is apparent that the [employer] simply did not review the appeal form and Information Bulletin No. 21″ carefully enough.  However, the Ministry of Labour and OLRB are different entities, and the OLRB has no authority to extend the time for filing the appeal of the inspector’s order.

The appeal was therefore dismissed.

LifeLabs v. A Director under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 2014 CanLII 2302 (ON LRB)

Filed Late, Appeal of Inspector’s Order Dismissed

Company Director Fined $8,500 After Swearing at MOL Safety Inspector, Making Threatening Gestures and Telling Inspector to Leave Project

Corporate directors can be charged by the Ontario Ministry of Labour and fined under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Threatening and swearing at a Ministry of Labour inspector certainly increases the odds of charges being laid.

A Ministry of Labour inspector visited a construction project where Starland Contracting Ltd. had been hired to build a self-service car wash.  The inspector saw a worker on the roof without fall protection or a hard hat.

A few months later, the inspector made a follow-up visit.  The company’s director was on site and was acting as supervisor.  According to the Ministry of Labour press release, the inspector went to speak with the director, who uttered profanities at the inspector, told the inspector to leave the project, and made threatening gestures and comments towards the inspector.  The director refused to show identification when asked.

The next day, another Ministry of Labour inspector went to the site.  Starland was unable to show a Notice of Project Form or a Form 1000, which lists all employers and subcontractors on site.  That inspector issued an order for those documents, but they were not provided by the deadline in the order.

Starland and the director were charged by the Ministry of Labour under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  After an ex-parte trial (meaning that the company and the director did not attend at the trial), the company was convicted of three offences under the OHSA and fined $29,500.00, and the director was convicted of two offences (hindering, obstructing, molesting and interfering with an inspector; and refusing to provide information requested by an inspector) and fined $8,500.00.

The Ministry of Labour’s press release may be found here.

Company Director Fined $8,500 After Swearing at MOL Safety Inspector, Making Threatening Gestures and Telling Inspector to Leave Project

$20,000 Fine After HR Staff, Supervisor Fail to Immediately Report Injury to MOL

An Ontario employer has been fined $20,000 for failing to report an injury to the Ministry of Labour, showing that employers need to educate their managers about the types of injuries that must be reported under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

A worker was injured when a loaded skid tipped and his leg became trapped under parts.  He suffered a broken bone which is a “critical injury” under the OHSA.  The OHSA requires employers to immediately report critical injuries to the Ministry of Labour.  The employee told his supervisor and, later, human resources staff that he had broken his leg.

Four days after the accident, the Ministry of Labour contacted the company about the accident.  The human resources staff said that the company was in the process of reporting to the Ministry of Labour.

The company pleaded guilty to failing to immediately report this critical injury to the MOL, contrary to section 51(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  The court imposed a $20,000 fine plus the 25% “victim fine surcharge”, for a total of $25,000.

It is not always obvious what types of injuries are “critical injuries” under the OHSA.  Employers should educate their managers and, where there is any doubt, obtain legal advice.

The Ministry of Labour’s press release may be accessed here.

$20,000 Fine After HR Staff, Supervisor Fail to Immediately Report Injury to MOL

Supervisor Jailed 45 days for Occupational Health and Safety Act Violation

An Ontario supervisor has been jailed for 45 days after a worker fell off a roof and suffered permanent paralysis.  Are courts growing increasingly comfortable jailing supervisors for serious safety violations?

We wrote about this case in May 2013 after the court found the company, the supervisor and another company representative guilty of charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  The court has now imposed its sentence.

According to the Ministry of Labour’s press release, the worker worked for a company engaged in “garbage removal and hauling”.  He was removing shingles from a roof, and fell off the roof after tossing loose shingles toward a bin.  The worker said that he had not been trained in the use of fall protection equipment, nor was any such equipment provided in the company-supplied truck used for transportation to and from the job site.  As well, the worker said that the company’s practice was to pay cash for their work, and that he worked on an on-call basis. The worker identified J.R. Contracting Property Services as the employer and one Teisha  Lootawan as the supervisor.

The court determined that J.R. Contracting Property Services was the “employer”. The court also determined that Lootawan was a supervisor under the OHSA.  Lootawan had failed as a supervisor to ensure that a worker wore protective devices as required by law, and failed as a supervisor to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that an adequate form of fall protection was provided where a worker was exposed to a fall hazard of more than three metres. 

The court sent Lootawan to jail for 45 days, imposed a $75,000.00 fine on the company, and fined the other company representative $2,000.00 for obstructing a Ministry of Labour inspector by refusing to answer any of the inspector’s questions.

The Ministry of Labour’s press release may be accessed here.

Supervisor Jailed 45 days for Occupational Health and Safety Act Violation

Class Action Proceeds Against MOL for “Negligent Inspection”

In a case that will be closely watched, an Ontario judge has permitted a class action lawsuit against the Ministry of Labour for “negligent inspection” of a workplace.

The case arises from the collapse of the roof-top parking deck at the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ontario, in which two people were killed and many more injured.

The class action was brought by owners of one of the restaurants in the mall, which was one of the businesses affected by the collapse.  The “class” of claimants included people in the mall at the time of the collapse, business tenants and employees working at the mall. 

The plaintiffs argued that Ministry of Labour inspectors had performed more than 130 inspections at the Mall over approximately 30 years, and had received numerous complaints about the condition of the mall and the dangers of water leakage problems.  The plaintiffs claimed that Ministry of Labour inspectors should have followed up with reasonable investigations and in failing to do so, they were negligent.  

The court stated:

“A government body such as the Ministry of Labour that exercises statutory power to conduct safety inspections owes a duty of care to all who may be injured as a result of a negligent inspection. Thus, for example, once the decision to inspect has been made, the court may review the scheme of inspection to ensure it is reasonable and has been reasonably carried out in light of all the circumstances, including the availability of funds, to determine whether the government agency has met the requisite standard of care.”

Although the Occupational Health and Safety Act provides limited liability-protection to Ministry of Labour employees, including inspectors, it expressly provides in section 65(2) that the Ministry of Labour itself may be held liable for acts of inspectors.

The judge therefore decided that the class action for “negligent inspection” could proceed against the Ministry of Labour.  It should be noted that the court has not yet found the Ministry of Labour liable, but simply said that the class action may proceed.

There are numerous other defendants in the class action, a group described by the court as “everyone involved in the planning, construction, inspection, ownership and maintenance of the shopping centre over the years”. That group includes the mall, the owners of the mall, the City of Elliot Lake, and a number of architects and engineers,

 Quinte v. Eastwood Mall, 2014 ONSC 249

Class Action Proceeds Against MOL for “Negligent Inspection”

Engineer Now Facing Both Criminal Negligence, OHSA Charges in Mall Collapse

Police have laid criminal negligence charges against an engineer in relation to the Elliot Lake mall collapse in June 2012.

The charges against engineer Robert Wood are two counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

Police say that Mr. Wood was an engineer who was involved in the inspections of the building.

A well-publicized judicial inquiry into the collapse of the mall heard that the roof had leaked for many years and the steel support structure was severely rusted.

In April 2013, media reported that Mr. Wood was also charged with offences under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act relating to negligent advice.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act permits the Ontario Ministry of Labour to lay charges against a professional engineer or architect where, “as a result of his or her advice that is given or his or her certification required under this Act that is made negligently or incompetently, a worker is endangered.

Criminal negligence charges against engineers are rare, as are charges against engineers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  This will be an important case for engineers and safety professionals to watch.

CBC News’ report may be accessed here.

Engineer Now Facing Both Criminal Negligence, OHSA Charges in Mall Collapse

Employer Should have Fixed Safety Issue Before Accident, Not After: Safety Fix did not Merit Lower Fine

An employer’s corrective action taken after an accident did not entitle it to a reduced fine under the Occupational Health and Safety Act because the action should have been taken – and was legally-required – before the accident, the Ontario Court of Appeal has held.

The employer, Flex N-Gate Canada Company, an auto parts producer, was charged with offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act after a worker broke several bones in her foot when a bundle of metal sheets slipped off a forklift and fell to the floor.

After a trial, the company was convicted of failing to ensure that material was moved in a safe manner and failing to properly train workers.  The presiding Justice of the Peace imposed a fine of $25,000.00 for each offence, for a total of $50,000.00.  A judge of the Ontario Court of Justice, on appeal, reduced the total fine to $25,000.00 because of the company’s corrective action after the accident.  The corrective action was in response to compliance orders made by a Ministry of Labour inspector against the company.  The appeal judge reduced the total fine by making the two fines “concurrent”.

The Ontario Court of Appeal restored the original fine of $50,000.00.  It decided that the post-accident corrective action simply brought the company into compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act – something that the company was already required to do before the accident.  The court stated, “Rewarding an employer for taking corrective action only in response to an inspector’s order reduces an employer’s incentive to take this action before an accident occurs” and also reduces the “deterrent effect” of fines in Occupational Health and Safety Act cases.

Fines may be reduced, the appeal court added, due to an employer’s corrective action beyond what the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires.  Also, an employer’s actions taken before the accident are relevant in setting the amount of the fine.

Lastly, the appeal court stated that “concurrent fines” are not permitted under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  Because the $50,000.00 total fine imposed by the justice of the peace was “fit”, that fine was reinstated.

In summary, employers will not be rewarded for fixing safety problems after an accident, unless the fix is above-and-beyond what the Occupational Health and Safety Act already requires.

Ontario (Labour) v. Flex-N-Gate Canada Company, 2014 ONCA 53 (CanLII)

 

Employer Should have Fixed Safety Issue Before Accident, Not After: Safety Fix did not Merit Lower Fine

Supervisor Jailed under OHSA after Lying to MOL Inspector, Police

In what is still a relatively rare occurrence, an Ontario supervisor has been sent to jail for violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act after a worker died.  Lying to the police and Ministry of Labour inspector did not help.

Paul Markewycz was the owner and operator of a company called Roofing Medics Ltd.  In 2011, a worker who was installing roofing membrane from a ladder fell approximately 6 metres and struck a fence.  The worker was wearing fall protection equipment but it was not connected to anything when he fell. The worker was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Markewycz told the police that the worker fell at the Markewycz home while helping to install roof vents.  A coroner told a Ministry of Labour inspector about the incident.  The inspector attended at the Markewycz home for an investigation.  A week after the accident, Markewycz and his lawyer met with Ministry of Labour inspectors and said that the incident had taken place in Toronto and not at his home. He also told the inspectors that worker had been employed with Roofing Medics, which had not reported the accident to the Ministry of Labour as required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Markewicz was charged with and pleaded guilty to failing as a supervisor to ensure that a worker works with the required protective devices, and to knowingly giving false information to an inspector. He was jailed for 15 days.  Roofing Medics was fined $50,000.00 for two violations including failing to notify an inspector of the accident immediately and in writing within 48 hours.

This case illustrates how the Ministry of Labour will seek severe penalties against those who lie to inspectors.  Honesty is, as our parents told us, the best policy.

The Ministry of Labour press release may be accessed here.

 

Supervisor Jailed under OHSA after Lying to MOL Inspector, Police

Employer did not discourage workers from reporting accidents to WSIB: WSIAT

A worker who delayed reporting an alleged workplace accident has claimed that his employer discouraged employees from reporting, but the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal has rejected that claim. The decision illustrates the importance of maintaining a practice of promptly reporting accidents to the WSIB.

The worker worked with a roofing company.  He filed a claim with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board on April 3, 2008 alleging that he was injured in a slip-and-fall accident at work three months earlier.  He claimed that he had told his supervisor who “made light” of the situation and laughed about it.

Interestingly, the worker claimed that reporting of accidents and filing of WSIB claims was  discouraged in the roofing industry, and that he feared losing his job if he filed a WSIB claim.  He said that the failure of his employer to acknowledge that his injuries were work-related was the result of its general practice of discouraging reporting of workplace accidents.

The WSIB had opened an investigation into the worker’s allegations that his employer discouraged accident reporting, but the investigation was closed with no action taken.

The WSIAT decided:

“. . . I cannot conclude on a balance of probabilities that the employer discouraged employees from reporting work-related accidents.  At best, the evidence provided by the witnesses established that roofing is a physically demanding line of work and workers frequently sustain a variety of bumps, bruises, cuts and burns.  I interpret the evidence of the witnesses to suggest that workers would normally just ‘shake these injuries off’ and would not report them as WSIB matters.  . . . The employer’s witnesses were consistent in their testimony that if there was a serious enough injury, they would report it to their foreman, who would report it to the supervisor, who would report it to the owner.  The evidence fails to satisfy me, on a balance of probabilities that workers were at risk of losing their jobs if they filed a WSIB claim.”

Given the evidence of the employer’s practice of reporting accidents, and in light of the fact that the worker had not sought medical attention on the day of the alleged accident and that it was not until two months later that his physicians became aware of the alleged accident, the worker’s claim for WSIB benefits was denied.

Decision No. 2286/11, 2013 ONWSIAT 1644 (CanLII)

Employer did not discourage workers from reporting accidents to WSIB: WSIAT

Entire vehicle was a “workplace” under OHSA even when only transporting employees, says OLRB

In a decision that affirms a broad definition of “workplace” under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Ontario Labour Relations Board has ruled that hydro trucks, including their aerial lift buckets, were “workplaces” under that Act even while they were simply being used to transport employees.

The trucks were on the way to work locations when they were required to enter a Ministry of Transportation inspection area beside a highway. Interestingly, a Ministry of Labour inspector was also present at the inspection site and laid certain orders under the Occupational Health and Safety Act in relation to the trucks. The orders required the employer to provide certain documentation, and also dealt with certain safety concerns relating to the operation of the step system used to access the aerial lift bucket.

Hydro One argued that in order for a Ministry of Labour inspector to have jurisdiction to issue an order under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the order must be issued at the workplace where the equipment (here, the aerial lift bucket apparatus) is to be used.  Hydro One argued that aerial lift bucket apparatus was not a “workplace” when the truck was being used solely to tranport employees, although the rest of the truck would be a “workplace” during the transportation.

The OLRB stated:

“The equipment [aerial lift bucket apparatus] in question is physically incorporated into the vehicle; it is equipment that is and was en route to being used by the very same employee operating the vehicle in question . . . If the employer’s analysis is accepted, i.e. that an order (request) must issue at the workplace and if that did not happen in the instant case, the employer acknowledged that an inspector faced with an obvious safety deficit could follow the vehicle in question to the workplace where the derelict equipment was to be used and properly issue an order there.  I am unable to see how requiring an inspector having full knowledge of facts otherwise warranting the issuance of an order to follow the equipment in question to the workplace before issuing an order is a sensible policy result. It is difficult to see how the spectre of inspectors, whether by stealth or in ‘hot pursuit’, following derelict equipment along highways and thoroughfares and unable to intervene until the inspector, the equipment and the employee in question are all at the ‘proper’ workplace is consistent with the rational administration and effective enforcement of the legislated workplace safety scheme.

Hydro One Networks Inc v Thisdelle, 2013 CanLII 67867 (ON LRB)

Entire vehicle was a “workplace” under OHSA even when only transporting employees, says OLRB