|A roundup of important new legislation, regulations, court cases and board rulings that we covered in 2012 in the Safety Compliance Insider.
CASE OF THE YEAR
Sole Proprietor Penalized $25,000 & Ordered to Do Volunteer Work for Fatal Fall
A worker fell from a roof under construction and later died from his injuries. He’d been wearing a fall arrest harness but it wasn’t connected to his life line. His employer, the sole proprietor of the carpentry company, pleaded guilty to a fall protection violation. At sentencing, the court noted that the employer had made some attempts to comply with the fall protection requirements, including providing the harness and life line, and did show remorse. But the employer also had a prior fall protection violation. So it ordered him to pay a $10,000 fine and $15,000 to the Educational Trust Fund and to perform 200 hours of volunteer work [R. v. Rusk,  NSPC 17 (CanLII), March 16, 2012].
No Proof Employer Disciplined Worker for Complaint about Decals on Safety Hat
A worker complained to his employer about having to wear decals on his safety helmet, arguing that they could fall into machinery and cause an incident. He then claimed the employer subjected him to a “verbal threat of insubordination,” so he filed a reprisal complaint. The Labour Board dismissed his complaint. The law bars employers from taking any “discriminatory action” against a worker who exercised his rights under the OHS law. Here, there was no evidence that the worker was disciplined, reprimanded or penalized in any way for his complaint about the decals [Wade v. Irving Shipbuilding Inc.,  NSLB 162 (CanLII), Aug. 2, 2012].
Worker’s Exposure to Toxic Fumes Permanently Worsened Existing Condition
A worker claimed that exposure to fumes from glue when it was applied to foam irritated her lungs and forced her to leave work. She filed a worker’s comp claim. A workers’ comp case manager concluded that because the fumes only temporarily exacerbated the worker’s pre-existing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the claim should be denied. But the Appeals Tribunal found that there was sufficient evidence that exposure to fumes from the glue caused the worker to develop more severe COPD symptoms, including occupational asthma. Because these symptoms constitute a permanent aggravation of her pre-existing condition, her injury was covered by workers’ comp [Re: 2010-329-AD,  CanLII 35360 (NS WCAT), June 26, 2012].
Work Refusal Was Emotional—Not Based on Reasonable Grounds
A worker at a residential care facility for mentally disabled adults claimed to have a medical condition that made her more likely to suffer serious injury if physically attacked. While delivering juice and food, she was hit by one of the residents. The facility changed the rules so that two workers always went with the juice cart. But the worker asked to be excused from this job. When the facility said no, she initiated a work refusal. An OHS officer investigated and ordered her to resume accompanying the juice cart. She appealed. The Labour Relations Board said the facility had implemented adequate measures to protect workers from violent residents. It concluded that the worker’s perception of the danger of manning the juice cart was emotional and not based on reasonable grounds [OHS-0342,  NSLB 66 (CanLII), Feb. 21, 2012].
Bus Driver’s Exposure to Sun on the Job Contributed to Skin Condition
A bus driver filed a workers’ comp claim for pre-cancerous spots on the left side of his face that he said were caused by prolonged exposure to the sun on the job. The claim was initially denied but upheld on appeal. The court concluded that the driver had suffered a “disablement.” Given the fact that the condition was asymmetric and only appeared on the left side of his face—the one exposed to sun as a bus driver—it was reasonable to conclude that his occupational exposure to the sun “materially contributed” to the development of the condition [Halifax (Workers’ Compensation Board) v. Hoelke,  N.S.J. No. 553, Oct. 21, 2011].
[button color=”red” link=”http://tinyurl.com/a2erdyg”]Next: Nunavut[/button]