Saskatchewan Year in Review

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Law of the Year

OHS Review

In July, the Saskatchewan government announced a general timeline and process for its review of OHS administration, which was expected to conclude with the Council’s presentation of its report to the Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety on Nov. 30, 2011.

 

Other Notable Regulatory Changes

Commercial Vehicles

In Nov., the government amended Saskatchewan’s Vehicle Weight and Dimension Regulations. Highlights:

  • Expansion of the list of highways at which B-trains can operate at 63,500 kg
  • Introduction of tridem drive trucks and truck tractors into the regulations
  • Introduction of aerodynamic devices, wide-based single tires and lift axles that auto deploy.

Workers’ Compensation

In May, the legislature passed a bill adding esophageal cancer to the list of cancers presumed to be occupational diseases covered by workers’ comp when suffered by  full-time, professional fire fighters, unless there’s evidence to the contrary.

 

Case of the Year

OHS Charges Against Utility ‘Stayed’ in Fatal Explosion

A natural gas explosion killed two people after a track hoe struck a gas line riser. The utility and the track hoe operator were charged with OHS violations. But the Ministry of Justice “stayed,” that is, suspended, the charges against the utility because there was “no reasonable likelihood of conviction.” The Crown prosecutor said that there was no standard best practice for physically guarding natural gas risers and they couldn’t prove that the utility failed to exercise due diligence [SaskEnergy, Govt. News Release, Feb. 9, 2011].

 

Other Notable Cases

Contractor Exercised Due Diligence as to Pipe Clearing Work

Workers were trying to clear a pipe at a uranium mine of ice when the pipe whipped 41 feet and struck a worker in the face, killing him. The contractor was charged with various OHS violations. But the court dismissed all charges, ruling that the evidence showed that the dramatic movement of the pipe couldn’t have been reasonably expected. In addition, the court ruled that the contractor had taken all reasonable steps to ensure that workers were properly supervised, trained and experienced for the job [R. v. Robwel Constructors LP, [2011] SKPC 31 (CanLII), Feb. 11, 2011].

Aide’s Grabbing of Co-Worker’s Wrists Warranted Suspension—Not Firing

During a dispute over a towel, a health aide tightly grabbed a co-worker’s wrists. After the co-worker complained, the aide was fired. An arbitrator ruled that although discipline was warranted for the incident, termination was excessive. The aide was a long time employee with a clean disciplinary record, who acknowledged that his conduct was wrong and cooperated with the investigation. Thus, a three-month suspension without pay was appropriate, concluded the arbitrator [Saskatchewan Assn. of Health Organizations v. CUPE, Local 3967 (Montgomery Grievance), [2011] S.L.A.A. No. 1, Jan. 13, 2011].

MOL Discriminated by Firing OHS Officer for Appealing Director’s Decision

After the Director of the MOL reversed various orders an OHS officer had issued to a prison, the officer sent the Director a letter appealing the decision. The Director rejected the notice of appeal. The MOL told her to “cease and desist” in pursuing the appeal, but she refused and was fired. The court ruled that the MOL had discriminated against the officer by firing her for trying to seek enforcement of the OHS laws [Dunkle v. OHS Division (Ministry of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour), [2011] SKQB 59 (CanLII), Feb. 3, 2011].

Termination of Probationary Worker for Texting Was Justified

A probationary worker was fired for abusing rest and lunch breaks and constantly texting and checking texts on his cell phone in violation of company policy. The arbitrator concluded that the company had properly fired the worker. His supervisor had repeatedly warned him about using his cell phone while working and abusing his breaks. And his formal evaluation indicated these areas of concern. But the worker’s behaviour didn’t improve [Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 726 v. City of Estevan, [2011] CanLII 11357 (SK L.A.), March 8, 2011].

Company Fined Nearly $20,000 for Worker’s Entanglement in Pulley

A worker was seriously injured when his arm was caught in a conveyer belt pulley. The company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that a safeguard on a conveyer belt pulley remained in place at all times. The court fined it $19,600 [Rack Petroleum Ltd., Govt. News Release, Feb. 7, 2011].

Safety Violations Cost Owner & Roofing Company over $14,000

A roofing company and its owner pleaded guilty to seven violations of the OHS Regulations after officers saw workers on a roof without fall protection, hard hats or safety footwear, and using an unsecured ladder for roof access. The court fined the company $11,200 and the owner $2,930 [Pro Image Roofing and Gutters Ltd. and Steven McCreary, Govt. News Release, Dec. 3, 2010].

City, Supervisor and Contractor Fined for Two Separate Incidents

A city, supervisor and contractor working for the city have pleaded guilty to OHS violations relating to two separate incidents. In the first, which involved a trench collapse, the contractor pleaded guilty to three charges and was fined $13,180; the city pleaded guilty to one violation and was fined $1,050. The second set of charges stemmed from a routine OHS inspection. The city pleaded guilty and was fined $7,000. A city supervisor also pleaded guilty to failing to ensure workers under his supervision worked in compliance with OHS legislation and was fined $310 [City of Prince Albert, Rusway Construction Ltd. and Neal Basaraba, Govt. News Release, Feb. 24, 2011].

Sawmill Fined $20,000 for Two Safety Incidents

A worker had a finger amputated and suffered a dislocated shoulder when his clothing got caught in some exposed sprockets at a sawmill. The court fined the sawmill $10,000 [L and M Wood Products, Sept. 16, 2011]. In a separate incident, a temporary worker operating conveyor equipment was seriously injured by a trim saw. The same sawmill pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that a stopping device for the trim saw was within the direct view and easy reach of its operator. The court fined it another $10,000 [L & M Wood Products LP, Govt. News Release, Sept. 20, 2011].