|A roundup of important new legislation, regulations, court cases and board rulings that we covered in 2012 in the Safety Compliance Insider.
LAW OF THE YEAR
In May, the government passed amendments to The OHS Act, 1993, which were originally supposed to take effect in Sept. 2012. But the government delayed that date until Nov. 7, 2012 due to stakeholder concerns. Highlights:
OTHER NOTABLE REGULATORY CHANGES
In Nov., the government announced new regulations to better protect late-night retail workers from violence in the workplace. The new regulations include safe cash handling procedures, use of video cameras and the provision of good visibility and signage for all late-night retail premises.
CASE OF THE YEAR
Mine Fined $420,000 for Death of Worker Struck by Piece that Fell from Crane
A surface mine worker was killed after being struck in the head by a component that fell from a load being lifting by an overhead crane. The mine pleaded guilty to failing to provide or maintain a system of work or working environment that ensured, as far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of a worker. The court fined it $420,000 [Agrium Inc., Govt. News Release, May 30, 2012].
Backhoe Operator Convicted of OHS Violations for Fatal Gas Explosion
A backhoe operator was demolishing some buildings when he snagged a natural gas riser with his equipment, causing gas to seep into a butcher shop, which exploded. Two workers were killed and several others were seriously injured. The court convicted the operator of two OHS violations. It rejected his due diligence defence, noting that he knew the risk of working around live gas lines and the potentially disastrous consequences of snagging a gas line with the bucket of his backhoe. As there was no pressing urgency, the operator had plenty of time to carefully dig with a shovel to expose the riser [R v. Riemer,  SKPC 6 (CanLII), May 16, 2012]. It fined him $20,000 [Lorry Riemer, Govt. News Release, Aug. 1, 2012].
Workers Who Drank While in Company Vehicle Reinstated
Two workers were driving a company truck when they got into an accident. The company determined that the workers had been drinking before the accident and fired them. An arbitrator ordered the company to reinstate the workers after a four months’ unpaid suspension. Consumption of alcohol during work, in a corporate vehicle and before and during the operation of that vehicle don’t mix and are serious misconduct. But the workers had started drinking in a spontaneous visit to the family of a co-worker who’d recently died. And both had clean disciplinary records and good performance reviews before this incident. Plus, the company didn’t consistently enforce its alcohol policies [Saskatchewan Telecommunications v. Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada,  CanLII 65814 (SK LA), Oct. 21, 2011].
Pattern of Harassment & Bullying Justified Worker’s Firing
After a city investigated a complaint that a worker had harassed and bullied a co-worker and others in the workplace, it fired him. The arbitrator noted that the city had properly and thoroughly investigated the complaints. The evidence showed that the worker engaged in a pattern of disrespectful behaviour toward his co-workers and manager that was confrontational, humiliating, threatening and deserved discipline. Management tried to counsel the worker to changes his ways before firing him. But he didn’t change and, in fact, didn’t accept that his conduct was inappropriate. So the arbitrator concluded that progressive discipline wouldn’t be appropriate here and his termination was justified [Saskatoon (City) v. Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 47,  CanLII 12086 (SK LA), March 8, 2012].
OK to Fire Courier for Receiving Package Containing Marijuana at Work
Because a registered package addressed to a courier reeked of marijuana, a manager took the liberty of opening it. Sure enough, it contained pot. So the courier was fired. He denied knowing anything about the marijuana even though it was sent by his brother; he claimed he was expecting tools. But the court ruled that the courier was an independent contractor and the company had just cause to end his contract without notice. Tolerating drug use by drivers could lead to criminal charges and destroy the company’s business, the court reasoned [Hollander v. Tiger Courier Inc.,  SKQB 5 (CanLII), Jan. 6, 2012].
$60,000 Fine Imposed for Guarding Violation
A steel plant worker was seriously injured when he got entangled in the motor drive shaft of a crane hoist. The company pleaded guilty to a guarding violation and was fined $60,000 [Evraz Regina Steel, Govt. News Release, April 4, 2012].
Worker’s Electrocution Results in $42,000 Fine
A worker was electrocuted while attempting to remove foreign material located below a power line. His employer pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that a worker didn’t work within 4.6 metres of an exposed energized conductor. The court fined it $42,000 [Bunge Canada Holdings I ULC, Govt. News Release, Feb. 8, 2012].
Farm Fined $32,000 for Worker’s Death in Confined Space
A farm worker died after entering a grain bin. The farm pleaded guilty to three OHS violations, including failing to ensure that, when a worker was permitted to work in a confined space, there was a safe entrance to and exit from that space and that all practicable emergency arrangements were made for the rescue of a worker at risk of asphyxiation and for the prompt provision of first aid and other measures. The court fined it $32,200 [D.M. Bryan Farms Ltd., Govt. News Release, April 3, 2012].
Construction Supervisor Fined More than $7,000 for Shoring Violation
During a routine inspection of an excavation site, inspectors saw workers in a 3.3 metre deep trench that wasn’t properly shored. Their supervisor pleaded guilty to failing to provide competent and sufficient supervision to workers and was fined more than $7,000 [Travis Brunner, Govt. News Release, Feb. 6, 2012].
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