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Occupational Health & Safety

Tomorrow is annual "Day of Mourning" for workers killed by accidents or occupational diseases

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

Tomorrow is the annual "Day of Mourning" for workers killed by accidents or occupational diseases. It is sponsored in BC by WorksafeBC, the Business Council of BC and the BC Federation of Labour.

Doug Alley, VP of HR, for the Business Council wrote a piece on the Day of Mourning in Monday's Vancouver Sun ("One death at work is one to many) and the statistics he sets out are sobering: (1) 121 workers lost their lives in 2009 in BC, 61 through work related accidents and 60 through occupational disease; and (2) BC has had an accident rate of three accidents per 100 workers for many years now.

A letter from the BC Federation of Labour, which sets out some of the history on the Day of Mourning, can be found here.

WorkSafeBC's Day of Mourning webpage can be found here.

New resources online concerning Ontario's workplace violence and harassment legislation (Bill 168)

Jurisdiction: - Ontario

The Bill 168 amendments to Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act are coming into force on June 15, 2010. The amendments will strengthen protections for workers from workplace violence and address workplace harassment.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has now published some resources to assist employers in understanding their new obligations and employees in understanding their new rights. The resources are found here.

Steelworkers union launches private prosecution against Weyerhaeuser under Bill C-45 Criminal Code amendments

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia
Sector: - Forestry

The United Steelworkers ("USW") union launched a private prosecution in BC yesterday alleging that Weyerhaeuser Company Ltd. was criminally negligent in the death of sawmill worker Lyle Hewer on November 17, 2004.

The charges are being brought pursuant to the rarely used 2004 Bill C-45 amendments to the Criminal Code, which were introduced after the deaths of 26 Nova Scotia coal miners at the Westray mine in 1992.

The amendments open the door for a corporation to be charged criminally for not meeting its workplace health and safety obligations.

According to the USW news release:

The charge is based on an allegation that Hewer died as a result of injuries incurred at Weyerhaeuser's New West Division sawmill, after following a supervisor's request to work under conditions the employer knew were hazardous. Hewer was taken to the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster where he succumbed to his injuries.  read more »

WorkSafeBC imposes record total penalties of $4.4 million in 2009 against employers

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

WorkSafeBC imposed a record total penalty amount of more than $4.4 million in 2009 against employers for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and the Workers Compensation Act.

Key facts set out in the News Release, 2009 Penalty Report and Backgrounder issued by WorkSafeBC on March 11, 2010, include:

2009 Penalty Report  read more »

Bill C-487: An Act to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace and to amend Canada Labour Code tabled

Jurisdiction: - Canada/Federal

A private members bill - C-276: An Act to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace and to amend the Canada Labour Code - was tabled in the House of Commons today by Brian Masee, a New Democratic Party of Canada Member of Parliament.

The text of the bill can be found here. Mr. Masse's January 29, 2010 news release on the bill can be read here.

Similar bills have been tabled several times previously, starting in 2003. Private members bills have little chance of being passed into legislation.

Update on the Bill C-45 health and safety amendments to the Criminal Code

Jurisdiction: - Quebec
Sector: - Manufacturing

The 2004 "Bill C-45" amendments to the Criminal Code opened the door for an organization to be charged criminally for not meeting its workplace health and safety obligations.

There has only been one criminal conviction under the amendments since they were introduced, according to an article on "Criminal Negligence and the Corporation" in the winter edition of the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association magazine written by Toronto lawyer Pradeep Chand.

Transpave, Inc. , a concrete block manufacturer near Montreal, pled guilty to criminal negligence causing death in December 2007. The charges were brought in relation to a 2005 workplace accident in which a 23 year-old Transpave employee was crushed to death while trying to clear a jam in a machine.

Transpave was subsequently fined $100,000 by the Quebec court, which was the amount that Crown counsel and the lawyer for the company had jointly agreed was appropriate.

(Note: The federal government's Plain Language Guide to Bill C-45, which appears to have been written before it was passed, can be found here).

Ontario's "10th Annual Employment Law Summit"

I attended the Law Society of Upper Canada's "10th Annual Employment Law Summit" in Toronto today.

The keynote speaker was the Honourable Mr. Justice Marshall Rothstein of the Supreme Court of Canada. He focused his comments on two recent cases in which the SCC has addressed fiduciary duties in the employment context:  read more »

Appeal Court rules that franchisee and its employees were carrying out Petro-Canada’s work for purposes of WCB Act

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia
Sector: - Oil & Gas - Retail Trade

In Petro-Canada v. British Columbia (Workers' Compensation Board), 2009 BCCA 396, the BC Court of Appeal ruled that a franchisee and its employees were carrying out Petro-Canada’s work for purposes of WCB Act.  You can read a summary of the case ("Vicarious Liability - Franchisor as "Employer"") by Davis LLP here.