Company Fined $60,000 When Failing To Take Reasonable Safety Precautions

Roll of Money

More than ever, it is a hot topic in the workplace: health and safety.  But many do not know where the line is drawn. For example, what is the responsibility of the employer vs that of the employee?

Below, we hope to make the answer clear using a case that was settled recently in Ontario. 

The Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1 (OHSA) sets out duties for employers, supervisors, and employees regarding health and safety in the workplace. 

Employees have duties to ensure they comply with the OHSA; to use protective equipment provided by the employer, and to report dangerous defects and hazards to the employer. 

Employers have extensive duties to ensure the workplace is safe, including a duty under s. 25(2)(h) of the OHSA to ensure that they “take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.” This could include having protective equipment, safety policies and more.

Sometimes, the lines seem grey…

 

Facts:

In 2019, a worker employed by the Schindler Elevator Corporation was working in an elevator machine room in Ottawa. The worker was engaged in lubricating elevator cables. During this work, the elevator was active, and the cables were moving.

The worker’s glove was caught by the cable and moved by the elevator’s hoist rope, causing the worker’s hand to be caught and injuring the worker’s hand.

Although in some cases gloves needed to be worn, Schindler had a policy that gloves must not be worn while work is being done around moving machinery, including an elevator in motion. 

It seems like the employee is at fault, right? 

 

The Ruling: 

Schindler put in a guilty plea to a provincial offence under the Provincial Offences Act and was required to pay $60,000 as a fine. The court also imposed a 25% victim surcharge. 

 

The Issues:

On its face, the worker may appear to be at fault for wearing gloves while doing the work in contravention of the company’s health and safety policy regarding gloves around moving machinery. However, as it turned out, the worker was not made aware of the policy by the company. The employee did not know that gloves should not be worn in these circumstances. 

 

How to Reduce Your Organization’s Risk 

You know it is important to ensure your company has policies in place that help ensure occupational health and safety. The issue is, the utility of those policies is lost when the worker is not aware of those policies. 

Workplace safety training and record keeping are extremely important! Employers must ensure that they train employees and keep adequate records of that training. This includes:

  • Noting down the date of the training
  • Keeping a copy of the training materials or notes from the training,
  • And having the employee sign a document stating the training was done. 

These precautions go a long way to reducing your potential liability. In the case of Schindler Elevator Corporation, had this worker been made aware of the policy, the accident itself may not have occurred. At the very least, Schindler may not have been found at fault. 

Instead, not only did they have to deal with a hefty fine, and a blemish on their reputation, but the worker must also deal with the impacts of a workplace injury that was likely avoidable. 

When it comes to reducing risk in the workplace, your best defence is proper training and record keeping.

 

Don’t know where to start? 

If you are looking for advice on drafting policies, implementing them, training employees, or ensuring training records are properly made and kept, do not hesitate to reach out to Bridge Legal & HR Solutions – we are more than happy to help. Contact us at 647-794-5442 or at admin@bridgelegalhr.ca.

Image: Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

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