Safety contractor wins appeal of $1,000 administrative penalty under OHSA

Don’t be seen to cause a traffic jam that inconveniences a government health and safety officer.  Perhaps that is the real moral of this story.

A safety contractor was providing traffic control services on the Trans-Canada Highway in Nova Scotia where a bridge was under repair.  An Occupational Health and Safety Officer with the Nova Scotia government became caught in the resulting traffic jam.  While stuck in traffic, she tried by phone to put a stop to the bridge work so the traffic could clear.

Her main stated concern was that there was inadequate warning that traffic might be slowing down.  She wrote a compliance order against the safety contractor. Three months later she issued a $1,000.00 administrative penalty for allegedly failing to ensure that traffic control staff were provided with appropriate training, facilities and equipment.

The Nova Scotia Labour Board held that “these are very vague allegations”. It decided that the mere fact that the situation occurred did not prove that the traffic control staff lacked training and resources. The health and safety officer did not appear to have a clear understanding of what training or direction the safety contractor had provided on that day.  She drew her conclusions from limited information and not from a measured review. She did not contact the company in the days after the incident to give them the opportunity to address her concerns.

The Labour Board stated:

“The submissions of the Appellant impress me that the company is expert in its field and could have addressed many of the concerns of the officer, had she made the additional effort to contact company officials in the days following the incident.”

In the end, there was not a proper factual basis to support the Administrative Penalty, which was set aside.

Safety First Contracting (1995) Limited (Re), 2015 NSLB 148 (CanLII)

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Adrian Miedema

About Adrian Miedema

Adrian is a partner in the Toronto Employment group of Dentons Canada LLP. He advises and represents public- and private-sector employers in employment, health and safety and human rights matters. He appears before employment tribunals and all levels of the Ontario courts on behalf of employers. He also advises employers on strategic and risk management considerations in employment policy and contracts.

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