Federal Year in Review


Law of the Year

Psychological Health & Safety

In June, the Mental Health Commission of Canada announced that it was working with the Bureau de normalisation du Québec and the CSA to develop the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, which will be released in 2012.


Other Notable Regulatory Changes

Truck Safety

The governments of AB, BC and SK agreed to adopt consistent regulations on the safe operation of large transport trucks. Uniform rules on the size and weights of vehicles and other aspects of trucking operations took effect July 1.

Railway Safety

In Oct., the government re-introduced proposed amendments to the Railway Safety Act, which will enable it to:

  • Crack down on violators with tough new monetary penalties and increased judicial penalties
  • Strengthen safety requirements for railway companies
  • Create whistleblower protection for workers who raise safety concerns
  • Require each railway to have an executive legally responsible for safety.


Case of the Year

Court Fines Company $140,000 for Worker’s Crushing Death

A worker was crushed to death by a hydraulic weight while painting a dredging barge. The company pleaded guilty under the Canada Labour Code to failing to install required guardrails, barricades and fences on that side of the dredge. In fining the company $140,000, the court noted that although the company wasn’t vigilant in assessing the workplace for safety violations, it did take “action to rectify the deficiencies” immediately after the incident [Fraser River Pile & Dredge (GP) Inc., June 14, 2011].


Other Notable Cases

Aircraft Fueller’s Vehicle Accident Was Final Straw

An employer fired an aircraft fueller after he got into a motor vehicle accident. The union argued that termination was excessive. The arbitrator disagreed. The fueller occupied a safety-sensitive position without direct supervision. The employer had given him ample time and opportunity to show he could do the job safely. But his record was full of repeated violations, a number of which raised safety issues. And given the latest accident, the employer was justified in believing that progressive discipline wouldn’t correct his behaviour, concluded the arbitrator [Servisair Inc. (Globeground Fuel Services) v. Public Service Alliance of Canada (Espinoza Grievance), [2011] C.L.A.D. No. 50, March 3, 2011].

Company’s Well-Functioning ‘Umbrella’ JHSC Complied with OHS Law

A company had an “umbrella” JHSC for nine locations within one “territory.” A federal OHS official ordered it to establish JHSCs for each location because an umbrella JHSC wasn’t effective given the company’s size. On appeal, the federal OHS Tribunal ruled that the company had been using a one JHSC/one territory approach for more than 10 years without objection from OHS officials and with the union’s agreement. And a recent audit concluded that the JHSC functioned well. So there was no basis for the order [Bell Canada v. Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, [2011] OHSTC 21, Aug. 22, 2011].