The Ontario Court of Appeal recently ruled in a government appeal against the C$200,000 ﬁne that Metron received after pleading guilty to a charge of criminal negligence causing death. The court rejected the lower penalty as unﬁt and increased the ﬁne to C$750,000. The decision should interest employers because it held that courts can essentially ﬁne a company into bankruptcy for a Criminal Code conviction.
In a highly anticipated decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to report only critical injuries or deaths that occur at a workplace which have a reasonable nexus to a realistic risk to worker safety. Employers would be well advised to review their reporting policies and train employees on how to respond when such incidents occur in the workplace.
There is a growing awareness of mental health issues in the workplace and increasing calls for the government to enact legislation to provide employees with a psychologically safe workplace. One of the most recent developments in this area is a standard prepared by the Canadian Standards Association and the Bureau de normalisation du Québec, which sets out optimistic suggested goals and processes in this regard.
Metron Construction Corporation was recently fined C$200,000 following its guilty plea to a charge of criminal negligence causing death. Metron is the first corporation in Ontario to be convicted of criminal negligence under amendments to the Criminal Code. The penalty imposed on Metron is the highest fine imposed for criminal negligence arising from a workplace accident in Canadian history.
The Canadian Standards Association has issued a new and surprisingly complex standard setting out optimistic goals and processes for achieving "psychological health and safety" in the workplace. Policies, procedures, hazard identification, incident investigation and monitoring activities may be required, in addition to all of the existing steps being taken to develop and manage occupational health and safety systems.
In June 2011 Bill 160 was passed to implement many of the recommendations of the Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety. As Bill 160 became law quickly following the panel's report, it left many Ontario employers wondering which recommendations made it into Bill 160, which were left out and what is yet to come. This update looks at the status of occupational health and safety change in Ontario.
Despite the proliferation of occupational health and safety provisions designed to protect against workplace violence, occupational health and safety enforcers have rarely, if ever, prosecuted employers when workers are victims of workplace violence. A recent case from Alberta suggests that this may be about to change.
In a recent case the Ontario Divisional Court upheld an Ontario Labour Relations Board decision that all fatal and critical injuries to a person at a workplace must be reported to the Ministry of Labour. The decision has the potential to affect Ontario employers and constructors that are obliged by the Occupational Health and Safety Act to report and preserve the scene of fatal and critical injuries.
The recent passage of Bill 160 paves the way for a transformation of the structure and institutions governing and enforcing occupational health and safety (OHS), and of the bodies providing information, assistance and training on OHS to workplace parties in Ontario. Bill 160, which amends the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, will come into force on a date to be determined shortly.
An independent, non-profit research organization has released a report entitled "Success is No Accident: Declining Workplace Safety Among Federal Jurisdiction Employers", which criticizes the government's efforts to ensure the health and safety of workers in the federal jurisdiction. Federal sector trade unions and workers' rights advocacy groups are likely to use the report to lobby for reform.
In what should serve as a stark reminder of risk for both employers and individuals, police in Ontario recently charged a corporate employer and two individuals with criminal negligence causing death after a fatal workplace accident at a construction project. These events demonstrate that while criminal prosecutions for workplace accidents remain rare, the police will not hesitate to pursue criminal charges as they deem appropriate.
A successful charter challenge to the British Columbia Workers' Compensation Board's mental stress policy has resulted in a direct change to British Columbia's policy on the complex issue of determining entitlement to workers' compensation benefits for work-related mental injuries. It may also herald challenges to the manner in which all Canadian workers' compensation boards adjudicate mental stress claims.