Ontario Steps up Enforcement Efforts Against Supervisors

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Supervisors have health and safety responsibilities under the OHS laws just like companies, owners, contractors, etc. Thus, they also face the risk of prosecution and fines for safety violations. In fact, supervisors are being prosecuted and fined with increasing regularity across Canada. Just look at three recent prosecutions of supervisors in Ontario.

THE CASES

In a matter of days, the Ontario Ministry of Labour announced the following fines imposed on supervisors:

Supervisor fined $12,000 for OHS violation & lying to inspector. At a construction project, a worker, who wasn’t wearing fall protection, fell from a pitched roof, breaking his arm. The supervisor on site told an MOL inspector that the worker had tripped and fallen from a window opening, which wasn’t true. The supervisor pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that a worker was adequately protected when working from heights and knowingly providing false information to an inspector. The court fined him $12,000 [Dustin Greer, Govt. News Release, May 5, 2011].

Supervisor fined $4,000 for amputation of worker’s fingers. A worker for a custom cabinet company was using a table saw to cut a wooden part with help from his supervisor. When the worker noticed a fragment of wood coming loose, he reached for it and his hand came into contact with the saw blade, which amputated three of his fingers. An MOL investigation found that the table saw was equipped with a guard but it wasn’t being use at the time. The company and supervisor pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that the table saw was properly guarded to prevent access to its moving blade. The court fined the company $50,000 and the supervisor $4,000 [Elmwood Group Ltd. and Jake Tissen, Govt. News Release, May 4, 2011].

Carpenter’s fall costs supervisor $3,000. At a condominium construction project, a carpenter was cleaning a work surface that had a hole in its floor. He lifted up a panel covering a hole in the floor and walked forward, falling through the hole to concrete below. The MOL concluded that the panel wasn’t secured or identified as covering an opening. The construction company and a supervisor pleaded guilty to failing to prevent a worker from falling through an opening by either installing a guardrail or protective covering. The company was fined $50,000 and the supervisor $3,000 [Resform Construction Ltd. and Justin Lowes, Govt. News Release, May 2, 2011].

ANALYSIS

These three cases certainly suggest that Ontario isn’t shy about going after supervisors for OHS violations. But it’s not the only jurisdiction targeting supervisors, although it is the most aggressive. For example, in Saskatchewan, a supervisor was fined for failing to ensure workers under his supervision worked in compliance with OHS legislation while in a trench [Neal Basaraba, Govt. News Release, Feb. 24, 2011]. At the Supervisor Compliance Center, there are articles, tools, videos and other materials you can use to ensure that your company’s supervisors—including foremen, lead hands and anyone with supervisory responsibilities, regardless of their title—understand that they may face liability for safety violations and are able to fulfill their OHS duties.