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No Duty to Train Medical Manager on Ladder Use: Not Part of His Job, Says Ontario Court

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An Ontario court has held that an employer had no duty to provide safety training to a medical manager on a function – the use of ladders – that was outside of the manager’s job duties.

The case involved the Emergency Medical Services Manager with the Parry Sound Health Centre.  The manager took an extension ladder, leaned the ladder against the outside of a building, then climbed the ladder to check a heating and air conditioning roof unit that was not working properly.  When the manager was 15 or 20 feet up, the ladder gave way and he fell to the ground and was seriously injured.

The Ministry of Labour laid an Occupational Health and Safety Act charge against the employer, alleging a failure to properly train the medical manager on ladder use.

Justice of the Peace Tenant, in the Ontario Court of Justice, held that the employer was not guilty.  He found that ladder use “had nothing to do with” the medical manager’s job; that the manager should not have been using a ladder; that it was not foreseeable that he would use the ladder; that he was not asked by the employer to use the ladder or to repair the roof unit; and that he was aware that the proper procedure was to call a maintenance worker.

The court asked, rhetorically, whether it would be “reasonable and necessary to provide information, instruction and supervision to a maintenance worker on the proper use of a hypodermic syringe?” and whether, if a nurse was injured hanging a piece of art, would the employer be required to train all nurses in the use of hammers?

In closing, the court stated that it does not require “super-human efforts” to raise a due diligence defence to Occupational Health and Safety Act charges, and the Act and regulations do not “mandate or seek to achieve the impossible entirely risk-free work environment”.

R. v. West Parry Sound Health Centre, 2012 CarswellOnt 7703 (Ont. C.J.)