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Occupational Health & Safety

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.

HRSDC launches newsletter for federally regulated employers

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) has started publishing an electronic newsletter - the Labour Focus Newsletter - that federally regulated employers will want to read.

Volume 1, Issue 1 of the newsletter was published last week and includes a bulletin from the Labour Program that discusses the H1N1 flu virus (the swine flu) and an employer's obligation under the Canada Labour Code, Part II to ensure the health and safety of their employees in the workplace.

As I noted in a post a few weeks ago, this article from the Vancouver Sun also contains advice for employers on how to respond to the virus and other outbreaks like it.

Swine flu and and the obligation of employers to provide a safe workplace

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

Given that the courts require employers to provide a safe workplace, how should employers respond to the swine flu outbreak? An article in yesterday's Vancouver Sun by a senior labour and employment lawyer provides some practical advice.  

Ontario introduces Bill 168 which will require employers to take action to combat workplace violence and harassment

Jurisdiction: - Ontario

The Ontario government introduced Bill 168 on April 20, 2009. If passed, the Bill will amend the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act and set out requirements that employer's must follow to combat violence and certain forms of harassment in the workplace. You can read more about Bill 168 in an article written by McCarthy Tetrault that can be found here.

WorkSafeBC levies $2.7 million in penalties for safety offences in 2008

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

WorksafeBC released its 2008 Penalty Report today.

According to the accompanying media release, WorkSafeBC imposed 152 penalties in 2008 totaling more than $2.7 million for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and the Workers Compensation Act (the Act). Individual penalties ranged from $1,000 up to $150,000".

A fatality was involved in 13 of the incidents that led to penalities, including the penalty for $150,000.

Update on law concerning smoking in the workplace in BC

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

There have been a few new developments concerning smoking in the workplace over the last 12 months.

First, new regulations under the Tobacco Control Act came into effect March 31, 2008. Among other things, the new regulations ban:

  • Smoking in all indoor public spaces and work places (with exemptions made for the ceremonial use of tobacco by Aboriginal people); and
  • Smoking within three metres of public and workplace doorways, open windows or air intakes.

Second, sections 4.81 and 4.82 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (under the Workers Compensation Act), which relate to environmental tobacco smoke in the workplace, were amended in order to harmonize the OHSR with the new tobacco laws. The OHSR amendments came into effect on January 1, 2009.

Third, WorksafeBC issued revised (as of January 1, 2009) guidelines on "Controlling exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS)" that reflect the above developments.  read more »

New "Violence Prevention in the Work Place" regulations impose duties on federally-regulated employers

Jurisdiction: - Canada/Federal

Part XX of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, entitled Violence Prevention in the Work Place, came into effect on May 28, 2008.

The Part XX provisions prescribe steps that federally-regulated employers in Canada must implement in their work place to protect employees against violence.

The definition of "work place violence" is any action, conduct, threat or gesture of a person towards an employee in their work place that can reasonably be expected to cause harm, injury or illness to that employee.

The federal government has issued a publication on Part XX. Among other things, it sets out what an employer should include in its work place violence prevention policy.  read more »