An employer's safety due diligence can be defeated every
time by one thing: a worker who won't follow instructions or
use proper equipment. But workers have legal duties too.
Very often an employer or constructor will be subject to orders
or prosecution when an employee fails to observe safe
practice. That's because the employer or constructor is
ultimately responsible for what happens at the workplace.
However, the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act
(OHSA) and laws like it in other provinces also impose legal duties
on employees. If individuals breach the law, they can be
charged as well as, or instead of, the employer or constructor.
An example is a case publicized this month by the Ontario
Ministry of Labour. On November 14, 2013, a Toronto hoist
worker Christopher Schwaemmie was fined for a violation of the
OHSA. The customary rule is that any person exposed to a
possible fall of more than 3 meters must be tied-off. Mr.
Schwaemmie worked at a hoist tower approximately 50 feet from the
ground. He leapt from a hoist tower to a nearby roof.
The jump was witnessed by a Ministry of Labour inspector, who noted
that while the worker was wearing a fall protection harness and
lanyard, the lanyard wasn't tied to anything.
The worker pleaded guilty to failing to be adequately protected
by a method of fall protection while exposed to a fall of more than
three meters and was fined $1500, plus victim surcharge.
Employers and constructors may want to remind their employees
that safe practice not only keeps people alive, it may also keep
them out of court.
The prospect of an internal investigation raises many thorny issues. This presentation will canvass some of the potential triggering events, and discuss how to structure an investigation, retain forensic assistance and manage the inevitable ethical issues that will arise.
From the boardroom to the shop floor, effective organizations recognize the value of having a diverse workplace. This presentation will explore effective strategies to promote diversity, defeat bias and encourage a broader community outlook.
Staying local but going global presents its challenges. Gowling WLG lawyers offer an international roundtable on doing business in the U.K., France, Germany, China and Russia. This three-hour session will videoconference in lawyers from around the world to discuss business and intellectual property hurdles.
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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