A farm employer has been convicted of a charge under the
Occupational Health and Safety Act where portable steps
being used by the employer were "not even barely
The employer was charged with failing to take the reasonable
precaution of ensuring that adequate access and/or egress was
provided for a transport storage trailer. A 59-year-old
worker fell and broke her leg while climbing down from the trailer.
The evidence showed that the top step of the portable steps used to
access the trailer was 24 inches lower than the floor of the
trailer, so that the employee had to climb down from the trailer
backwards, lying on her stomach on the floor of the trailer,
because of the distance to the top step.
Interestingly, it appears that the steps had been adequate when
the trailer was in its previous location. There, the trailer's
tires had been flat and the wheels sunk into the ground, shortening
the distance between the top step and the floor of the
trailer. The problem was that the trailer had been moved and the
The trial justice had found the employer guilty of the charge,
calling the situation an "accident waiting to
happen". The appeal judge agreed that the conviction
should stand. The distance of 24 inches between the top step
and the floor of the trailer created a self-evidently unsafe
situation. The obligation under the OHSA to take "every
reasonable precaution" includes the obligation to provide
equipment that is adequate to the task for which it is
required. In the circumstances, it was not a defence
that no one foresaw the danger and that no worker complained.
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