Onerous OHSA duties see more than $200k in fines

by Caitlin Nobes26 Sep 2012

Failure to protect their workers has seen  two separate Ontario companies receive fines of more than $100,000 each in Ministry of Labour cases from the last month.

In the first case, a worker at a car manufacturer in Guelph suffered serious electric shocks and burns when he came into contact with exposed machinery that was electrically charged.  The machine he was working on was surrounded by a cage, but there was no signage warning of the live current and the worker had never been warned about the risk. Linamar Holdings Inc. was fined $150,000 for failing to provide information about the presence of electrically charged exposed parts in the enclosed area of the machine. The court also found that the company failed to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker on the safe procedures for dealing with a leak.

In a second case, from last year, an Alexandria man who worked at a metal fabricator was killed when his head was caught between two containers he was measuring. A second worker using a forklift had moved the first container in the row, causing the other containers to bang together. Hubert Sbourin Inc. was fined $100,000 for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker on the dangers of working in the yard where there is vehicular traffic.

Both companies also face a 25% victim fine surcharge.

Details of the cases are not yet available, but both demonstrate the heavy responsibilities that organizations bear when it comes to protecting their workers.

These  are excellent cases in terms of teaching employers a lesson in terms of the high onus that’s placed on employers, lawyer Bonnea Channe, from Filion Wakely Thorup Angeletti, said. “That finding of guilt says to me that in the court’s view under the occupational health and safety act the employers could have done something to prevent this from happening.”

While it  would be  impossible to identify every hazard or risky scenario, an employer can  ensure they provide their workers with the skills and knowledge to assess potentially risky situations.

At a minimum an employer needs to provide the information, instruction and supervision to workers so the workers themselves are able to identify health and safety risks when they arise, Channe said. “It’s about giving workers the practical tools to do that. There should be on-going training instruction and education on a regular basis and at minimum a review of training material and information on an annual basis.”