Dangerous workplaces require particularly careful training and
supervision, a judge has stated in convicting a propane
company. The judge found that a worker's reaction to the
sound of an explosion showed that he was not properly trained.
A series of massive explosions at a propane facility in Toronto
in 2008 killed a worker and damaged a number of nearby
Sunrise Propane Energy Group Inc., the operator of the propane
facility, was charged with failing to provide information,
instruction and supervision to the worker, and with failing to take
every reasonable precaution for the protection of the worker.
The court rejected Sunrise's submissions that, because there
had been no complaints against the employee, the court could infer
that the employee had been adequately trained. The court also found
that because the worker ran in the direction of the explosion
rather than away from it, the only rational inference was that he
had not been properly trained.
Further, the court held that the employee had not been properly
supervised. The employer did not take the simple step of
giving the employee a phone number to call if he had any
questions. Nor did any supervisors call him to check in on
him. The employee should not have been put in charge of the
propane yard on the night in question, given his lack of
Sunrise also argued that it had proved due diligence because the
accident was not foreseeable. The court rejected that argument and
noted that the question was not whether the accident was
foreseeable, but whether a reasonable person would have foreseen
that having this worker working alone at night was dangerous.
Referring to the dangerous nature of this workplace, the court
"I am sure that the defendants were well meaning, to a
degree, but in an inherently dangerous business such as this there
must be a high degree of attention to detail and processes in place
that address day-to-day issues, particularly instructing, training
and supervision for people handling this very dangerous fuel.
People make mistakes and processes assist in mitigating any damage
that arises when employees make those mistakes."
The company was also found guilty, after the same trial, of
charges under the Environmental Protection Act.
This case demonstrates that courts will hold employers that
operate safety-sensitive businesses to high safety standards, and
training and supervision practices will be carefully
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Ten days following the election, join us for a discussion with Gary Doer, former Canadian Ambassador to the US, and Gordon Giffin, US Ambassador to Canada under Bill Clinton, to discuss how the new President and Congressional makeup will shape US-Canada relations for years to come.
On November 8, 2016, the United States will go to the polls to elect their 45th president. Whether it is Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, this decision will profoundly shape American policy for the next four to eight years. As our largest trading partner and neighbour to the south, the next US administration will influence a broad range of policy issues that directly impact Canada. These include the future of NAFTA and the TPP, the Arctic and geo-politics, the renewal of the Softwood Lumber Agreement, and the energy sector.
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Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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