A farm employer has been convicted of a charge under the Occupational Health and Safety Act where portable steps being used by the employer were “not even barely adequate”.
The employer was charged with failing to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that adequate access and/or egress was provided for a transport storage trailer. A 59-year-old worker fell and broke her leg while climbing down from the trailer. The evidence showed that the top step of the portable steps used to access the trailer was 24 inches lower than the floor of the trailer, so that the employee had to climb down from the trailer backwards, lying on her stomach on the floor of the trailer, because of the distance to the top step.
Interestingly, it appears that the steps had been adequate when the trailer was in its previous location. There, the trailer’s tires had been flat and the wheels sunk into the ground, shortening the distance between the top step and the floor of the trailer. The problem was that the trailer had been moved and the tires inflated.
The trial justice had found the employer guilty of the charge, calling the situation an “accident waiting to happen”. The appeal judge agreed that the conviction should stand. The distance of 24 inches between the top step and the floor of the trailer created a self-evidently unsafe situation. The obligation under the OHSA to take “every reasonable precaution” includes the obligation to provide equipment that is adequate to the task for which it is required. In the circumstances, it was not a defence that no one foresaw the danger and that no worker complained.
Ontario (Ministry of Labour) v. Stratford Chick Hatchery Ltd., 2013 ONCJ 47 (CanLII)