Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine (Oct. 2016)
Report by Jeff Cottrill – Editor of Occupational Health and Safety News
A recent ruling has determined that a mechanic working on the Evergreen Line – an extension of Metro Vancouver’s SkyTrain transit system – was let go from his job because he had raised safety concerns and refused to perform unsafe tasks. In a decision dated August 26, 2016, WorkSafeBC rules that SNC – Lavalin and SELI Canada discriminated against David Britton by terminating his employment on November 3, 2014. Although the employer’s claim that Britain’s work on the line had been completed, Britton charged that they had punished him for reporting safety issues and refusing to certify a refuge chamber, as well as lying about the reasons for his dismissal.
“I conclude the worker was not laid off by the employers for lack of availability of work for the conveyor mechanics,” writes Doug McDonald, work St. BCs investigation is a legal officer for its compliance section, “but rather was dismissed, or at least in part, for concerns he had expressed about the refuge chamber readiness.”
Britton and that they found several problems with it. Although the chamber required certain parts, including a cartridge to convert carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide, the employers did not purchase them despite his repeated reminders.
“I reported this at occupational health and safety meetings,” Britton says. “Meanwhile, increasingly, pressure is being put on me to certify the chamber,” he notes, adding that he refused to certify the chamber until it could perform to its designed function. Eventually, Britton received the needed parts and signed off on the chamber’s readiness.
“Three after I signed that, they fired me,” he says. According to Britton, his supervisor had been cited for safety violations before Britton was hired for the project. Britton reported an incident in 2014, in which his supervisor had climbed iinto a “Rock Box”, a closed structure that sometimes contains noxious gases, without wearing a harness and having a colleague posted below. Knowing that the supervisor was violating safety protocols, Britton took a photo and gave it to a safety officer. Following the report, he claims that his co-workers from Italy began to harass and bully him.
B.C. Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger calls SNC – Lavalin’s conduct “reprehensible” in a statement from September 08, 2016. “These are serious violations, and the penalties for SNC-Lavalin should be severe,” Lanzinger says. “This decision will encourage other workers to speak out about unsafe workplaces in the face of employers efforts to silence them.”
Britton is not the only worker on the Evergreen Line who has been dismissed after brining up safety concerns. Crane operator Julio Serrano, who refused unsafe work and reported many unsafe conditions for more than a year to SNC-Lavalin, also has a case before WorkSafeBC. Serrano refused to operate a crane last year (2015) after the employer had removed the limit switch.
Some things never change.
Again, we have a large company attempting to circumvent safety in the workplace.
I would suggest that these types of companies forget this terrible practice in BC, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland. These four governments have pretty good records with dealing with companies that believe the laws do not apply to them.
Mind you, if they were in Alberta, they would probably get away with it.
HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.
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‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
CEO & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.