Excerpts from the OH&S Canada Magazine

Provincial health and safety inspection are in no danger of becoming privatized, says Peter Fonseca, Ontario’s Labour Minister.

Concerns surrounding the privatization of OH&S inspections have been raised by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) which represents the provincial inspectors currently housed in the MOL.

An ongoing review of Ontario’s OH&S system — lead by Tony Dean, a former Deputy Labour Minister, and supported by a multi-stakeholder panel — is what captured the attention of the union.

The review in and of itself speaks to reviewing my job and what I do, says Len Elliott, a MOL Inspector and President of the Local OPSEU in London, Ontario.

The original report stated by Fonseca, “Everything is on the table for review.” This would lead anyone in the union to fear the worst.

On May 21st of last year, Fonseca made a statement that included the following information. “The review will not consider or recommend privatizing our enforcement system.”

Elliott contends, “Moving away from a system where inspectors operate directly under a government ministry would be the death of health and safety in the province as we know it.”

He pointed to an example where the Technical Standards and Safety Authority, (TSSA), a self-funded, not-for-profit organization at arm’s length from the Ontario government.

“That model,” Elliott points out, “is potentially problematic with inspector objectivity and enforcement levels. “ You cannot have self-regulation.” “You cannot have inspectors working for the very employers they’re going to prosecute.”

My opinion

Here is some data from the Sunrise incident that occurred in August of 2008:

1) The Ontario government moves to toughen propane regulations following the deadly 2008 explosion at the Sunrise Propane facility;

2) The new legislation will have the TSSA appoint a risk and safety officer;

3) The TSSA found, after the explosion, 81 out of the 200 sites in Ontario were not in compliance;

4) 11 had violations that posed an immediate hazard and (all have since been corrected) (May 28, 2009)

5) A 2nd audit found that 1,335 of the 2,790 propane facilities were no longer operating

The Ministry of Labour, especially the Minister himself, was not pleased with the incident and was concerned that there was other information out there about other compounds. The 2 audits showed the lack of understanding with the TSSA about propane safety and, I believe, any objectivity. Only after Sunrise did the TSSA send out their inspectors and they blitzed the entire province. As an instructor of propane for ‘Heaters and Torches’,’ Propane Filling’ as well as ‘Handling and Exchange’ I was able to review all concerns as the TSSA was out in full force.

The above audits showed the lack of controls in place at the time or the lack of object inspections. How could an impromptu audit find that many facilities were no longer in operation.

Thank God the MOL felt it necessary to have a check completed.

Think about this for one minute. 81 out of 200 sites were not in compliance. I wonder how many compliance orders, issued by the TSSA, were on file before Sunrise blew up. (11 with serious enough and needed immediate correction)

The accident was due to an illegal truck-to-truck transfer, something that was going on for quite a long time. Were there compliance or stop work orders in place?. Did the inspectors even notice or report the illegal activity? If they didn’t notice then there was a level of incompetence here. If they knew and did nothing then they were, again, incompetent.

How many ways can we say it!

The end result, as I have been told, is that 32 inspectors lost their jobs around Christmas time in 2009. It was not necessary to do this if there was some sort of accountability. I agree with Mr. Elliott. Only monitored independent inspection works. If your job is on the line, it is difficult to miss obvious infractions, especially since you are fervently looking for them.

The TSSA is, once again, doing a great job. The inspectors they have now look to be taking a ‘No Holds Barred’ approach. Propane accountability on the worksite is back where it should be.

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including propane ‘Heaters and Torches’, ‘Filling’, and ‘Handling and Exchange’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at info@hrsgroup.com

Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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