November 2, 2012
The Ontario Ministry of Labour has been prosecuting violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act by employers, with hefty penalties and fines.
Most of these violations involve the employers omission in training their employees of certain hazards. The Ontario Ministry of Labour has found a violation in the omission of training in certain workplace operations of machinery, that
none of the workers had received traffic control training and a traffic control
plan was not in effect, that the employer failed to ensure that the work surface was kept free
of slip and fall hazards, and there are many more.
We do not have accidents in Ontario workplaces. If you remember the ads the Prevention division of the WSIB released a few years ago - it was scary stuff! Horrible things happened to people in the workplace who did not follow the OHSA or whose employer did not train them in proper procedures.
Where does the employee fall in all of this?
Perhaps, it is a little like Scott Street in St. Catharines. If you have ever had the privilege of driving down that street you will notice the many traffic stop signals that have been installed. Let me mention here that except for major intersections; those are not preventive measures taken - they are completely reactive. Each of those "extra" traffic signals represents someone who was killed while crossing Scott Street. Crossing without going to a nearby intersection. Crossing in the middle of the street. The reaction of the City because the public outcry for something to be done demanded an action. The re-action was another traffic signal. It was a horrible way to die for a young student and for an elderly grandmother. I hope that these additional traffic signals prevent it from happening again.
In the workplace, Justice Ham instituted the Internal Responsibility System. It was a reaction. However, it was after a careful investigation into what happened in a terrible workplace "accident".
The triangle of responsibility that he designed puts the Province of Ontario at the top. They pass legislation and regulations that are made to protect workers.
Then the first stop in the bottom of the triangle is the employer, who is legislated to take all measures to keep employees safe.
The next stop in the triangle is the employees who are in the workplace. Essentially, the foundation of this structure is the relationship between the employer and the employees. Each communicating to the other about any possible hazards that may be in the workplace. Then each taking responsibility for taking all measures to make sure that the workplace is safe.
I feel like I am repeating myself. Everyone is responsible to make sure the workplace is safe because the Province of Ontario does not have any accidents!
It is extremely difficult for the Justice in these cases to charge an employee who has been killed or injured. The employer is found to be at fault. Common sense tells us that often the employee should not have been doing what they were doing. Still, the employer is at fault.
Even when an employee is rushing at the end of the day to finish on time, early, or if working on piece work - to make an extra few bucks for their family - when tragedy strikes; the employer is at fault.
The employer may have set up an accident by using a compensation method that doesn't allow employees to take their time on a more dangerous job. The employer may have given a young worker a chance to have his first job even without experience and paired him with a more experienced worker who was taking chances.
However, regardless of the Internal Responsibility System that is in place in the Province of Ontario; the employer pays the penalty with his cash and the employee pays the penalty with his life.
When will we learn that employees also have a duty to mitigate the dangers in the workplace. They also have a responsibility to use common sense on the job. They also must give up the chance for the extra buck by slowing down and doing the job safely.
The OHSA is like Scott Street for me. It is the reaction to many injuries in the workplace over the years. A collection of decisions so that this will not happen again. It is also a collection of common sense. Use it or lose it!
The Province of Ontario is regulating workplaces to use common sense. Employers must train their employees properly and to use common sense.
Employees must use common sense to come home from work each day - alive and in one piece.
It is our right in Ontario workplaces.
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