A St. Thomas manufacturer has been fined $62,500 after pleading guilty to violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). The conviction stems from an incident in September 2018 when a worker was critically injured after falling from a stepladder.
The worker had been assigned to inspect the roof. To gain access, the worker had to climb a six-foot aluminum stepladder to reach a vertical fixed access ladder attached to the side of the building. While standing on the top cap of the stepladder, the stepladder tipped over, causing the worker to fall to a concrete pad below.
An investigation by the Ministry of Labour concluded that the company failed to take the reasonable precaution of providing a safe means of access to the roof of the facility. This is a violation of section 25(2)(h) of the OHSA which states that an employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker at the workplace. The court proceeded to fine the company $50,000 for the violation. The court also imposed a $12,500 victim fine surcharge, bringing the total fine to $62,500 for the manufacturer.
How the Critical Injury and Conviction Could Have Been Prevented
Without knowing all the details of the convicted company’s workplace or it’s health and safety program, we can’t know for sure where the system broke down, leaving this worker critically injured. However, there are obviously areas of the company’s health and safety program that could be strengthened:
- Do workers understand their rights? Workers have the right to know, the right to participate, and the right to refuse unsafe work. If the now-injured worker’s right to know had been upheld, he would have recognized that he was about to embark on an unsafe task. The worker could have discussed their concerns with their supervisor prior to performing the task. Or, the worker could have refused this task if they understood their right to refuse unsafe work. Workers’ rights are covered in Worker Health and Safety Awareness Training and Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) Training.
- Were the worker and supervisor trained in Ladder Safety or Working at Heights? Workers and supervisors should be trained on how to safely perform the tasks they’ll be performing or supervising. Had the worker been trained in Ladder Safety, they may have understood how dangerous it is to use the top cap of the ladder as a step.
- Was the workplace routinely inspected for hazards? The workplace should be inspected once a month by a member of the JHSC. Lacking safe access to the roof is a hazard that the JHSC may have spotted if they were performing routine inspections.
This case demonstrates just how easy it is to become accustomed to hazards in the workplace. For how long did the workplace lack a safe means to access the roof of the facility? It’s possible that supervisors, JHSC members, and workers walked past this hazard every day without recognizing it or attempting to eliminate or control it.
Convictions like these remind us that we must be diligent in protecting the safety of our workers. Not only is it a legislated requirement, but it also prevents us from the consequences of uncontrolled hazards – consequences like seriously injured workers, lost productivity, and hefty fines.
Stop Complacency With a Workplace Inspection & Hazard Audit
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