Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine (July 2016)
The Ottawa City Council has voted unanimously to petition the Ontario Labour Minister and Attorney General to push for criminal investigations and convictions regarding occupational health fatalities and serious workplace injuries, in accordance with 2004 amendments to the Canadian Criminal Code of Canada, known as the Westray Law.
The Council’s agenda for June 08, 2016, included a motion to lobby for better cooperation between OH&S authorities, police, and Crown Attorneys in applying the Westray Law to all relevant cases. The motion was moved by Ottawa mayor Jim Watson and seconded by Councillor Riley Brockington.
The motion was granted “with a view to ensure that the spirit and intent of the Westray Amendments are properly considered and applied in all cases of workplace fatalities and serious injuries,” the agenda reads.
“Despite these legislative changes, according to the most recent statistics complied by the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, 919 workers across Canada died in 2014 as a result of workplace accidents or illnesses, and this rate of workplace death and injury has not abated since,” the agenda notes. “It was not until June 2015 that the first conviction under the Westray Amendments was obtained in the Province of Ontario.”
The United Steelworkers (USW) of Canada, which has lobbied for compliance with the Westray Law, welcomes the City of Ottawa’s decision. “Attorney Generals must direct law enforcement and prosecutors to stop the killing by enforcing the law and thereby making employers understand that killing workers must never be a cost of doing business in Canada,” says Marty Warren, the director of USW District 6 (Ontario and the Atlantic provinces).
Bill C45, known as the Westray Bill, was enacted and became section 217.1 of the Canadian Criminal Code. It states,
“Every one who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.”
It has only been used a few times in Ontario. The biggest example was the Metron Swing-stage accident on Christmas Eve day, 2009. 5 workers fell about 13 stories, 4 died and 1 survived. The supervisor was charged, convicted, and received 3.5 years. It was also the first time, that I can recall, where the Ontario government appealed the light fine imposed by a lower court. Original fine was $200,000 for the worst accident in years. The appeal to a higher court lead to a $750,000 fine instead. This is in keeping with the severity of the accident.
HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Forklift Certification’ and ‘Forklift Re-certification’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.
We can also be reached at www.hrsgroup.com.
Ensure your workplace is a safe place.
Remember – In Ontario, “All accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
CEO and Training Director