Employers are not required to anticipate all safety hazards,
however unforeseeable. A recent case illustrates this point.
In a tragic accident, a worker died when a brace (which formed
part of a makeshift winch used to pull concrete pipes into place)
failed, striking the worker.
The employer was charged under the Occupational Health and
Safety Act with failing to design the brace "to support
or resist all loads and forces to which it is likely to be
Mr. Justice David Paciocco of the Ontario Court of Justice
decided that the workers understood that only alignment of the pipe
– and not force – could accomplish the task of moving
the pipe into place, and that the winch system and brace were not
designed to overcome resistance from a misaligned pipe
through increased force from the winch. That use of the
brace and winch system was not "likely", so the charge
Interestingly, Justice Paciocco rejected the Ministry of Labour
prosecutor's argument that the mere failure of the wooden brace
proved that it was not properly designed. Rather, the
employer would only be guilty if it failed to design the brace to
withstand "likely" forces. Here, because the
employees' use of the brace at the time of the accident was not
"likely", the charge was dismissed.
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