A worker who refused to answer a Ministry of Labour inspector’s questions during an accident investigation has been found guilty of obstructing the inspector.
An employee of a trash-removal business consumed three beers before work, climbed up on a roof to retrieve loose shingles, and then fell off the roof and became paralyzed below the waist. A corporation was charged as the injured worker’s “employer”. A representative of the corporation was also charged as a supervisor, and another individual, one Haniff, was charged with obstructing the MOL inspector by not answering questions.
There was much debate in the case about who was the “employer”. The company was ultimately found to be the employer and convicted of failing to ensure that the worker wore fall arrest equipment and was trained in fall arrest.
Haniff attended at the Ministry of Labour office, as requested by the inspector and handed the inspector an envelope that contained the telephone record for the corporate defendant. However, Haniff, who admitted that he had taken the initial call from the homeowner asking to have the trash removed, failed to answer the inspector’s other questions about what Haniff did after taking the call, and in particular whether he directed the workers to go to the job site.
Justice of the Peace Mary Ross Hendriks stated:
“Section 62(1) of the Act, which also falls under Part VIII – Enforcement, states:
Obstruction of inspector
62(1) No person shall hinder, obstruct, molest or interfere with or attempt to hinder, obstruct, molest, or interfere with an inspector in the exercise of a power or the performance of a duty under this Act or the regulations or in the execution of a warrant issued under this Act or the Provincial Offences Act with respect to a matter under this Act or the regulations.
“Specifically, subsection 62(2)(a) of the Act creates a positive duty to assist, on “every person” to “furnish all necessary means in the person’s power to facilitate any entry, search, inspection, investigation, examination, testing or inquiry by an inspector,” in the exercise of his or her powers or the performance of his or her duties under the Act or regulations.
“Mr. Haniff’s refusal to answer any of his questions when they met hindered Inspector Lomer’s ability to conduct his investigation, and thwarted his ability to explore undisclosed events and workplace relationships which were relevant to his investigation.”
Haniff was therefore guilty of the Occupational Health and Safety Act offence of obstructing the inspector.
The case shows the importance of co-operating with lawful requests from Ministry of Labour inspectors in the course of an investigation.
Ontario (Ministry of Labour) v. J.R. Contracting Property Services et al., 2013 ONCJ 202 (CanLII)