In our January Employee and Labour Relations bulletin, we reported important amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada that will significantly impact all Canadian workplaces.
Bill C-45, also known as the Westray Bill in honour of the deadly explosion at the Westray mine in Plymouth, Nova Scotia in 1992 that prompted legislators to review occupational health and safety law, comes into force on March 31, 2004. As of that date, the level of liability and scope of individuals who may be held legally responsible for occupational health and safety violations in the workplace significantly increases. Section 217.1 of the amended Criminal Code of Canada dictates:
217.1 Every one who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.
Unlike provincial occupational health and safety legislation, which generally focus on the responsibilities of workers and corporations, the Westray Bill expands the duty of care in workplaces to virtually everyone. The duty of care is firmly communicated. The message is clear: occupational health and safety is everyone’s responsibility, from directors, officers, general manager, operations managers, and to anyone else who takes it upon himself of herself to direct the performance of another individual’s work, such as co-workers.
To this end, the Westray Bill also facilitates the criminal prosecution of corporations and their management, which was difficult (in fact, almost impossible) prior to Bill C-45.
The Westray Bill does not replace provincial occupational health and safety legislation; it simply serves to expand the regulation of occupational health and safety and cast a broader net of individuals who could be prosecuted for workplace safety violations. Provincial occupational health and safety legislation will remain in effect and, together with the Westray Bill, will continue to regulate occupational health and safety.
As a result, those who fail their duty of care could face prosecution under the Criminal Code and provincial occupational health and safety legislation, which could lead to significant fines, imprisonment and other remedies. The stakes are clearly higher. Commitment (financial and operational) to health and safety from all levels of an organization has never been more important. Training and safety awareness programs, including regular safety audits, are but a couple recommended practices.
Should you have any questions concerning occupational health and safety, please do not hesitate to contact any member of our Employee and Labour Relations group.
The foregoing provides only an overview. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, a qualified lawyer should be consulted.
The Law Society of British Columbia’s Cloud Computing Working Group issued its Final Report on Cloud Computing on January 27, 2012, amending an earlier consultation report approved by the "Benchers" on July 15, 2011.
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