Federal Employers should be aware that the Federal Court has
limited the scope of what constitutes a "workplace" for
the purpose of health and safety inspections. Similar to Provincial
Employers, Federal Employers are required to have inspections for
health and safety under Part II of the Canada Labour Code.
Prior to the decision in Canadian Union Postal Workers v Canada Post
Corporation 2016 FC 252 there was some confusion
on what locations employers were required to allow their health and
safety committee to inspect under section 125(1) which referenced
both work place and work activity. With the Federal Court decision
federal employers can take heart that they will only be required to
conduct inspections in workplaces where the employer exercises
In this case, the Employer had inspections by its Joint Health
and Safety Committee at its physical building in Burlington,
Ontario; however, it did not have inspections along its letter
carrier routes. The Health and Safety Officer that responded to an
employee complaint found that the employer was in breach of the
Code by limiting inspections to only the physical
building. This appeared to mean that if the Employer directed the
work that the employer was responsible to inspect the location. In
this case that would have created responsibility for routes that
extended on to private property. However, the Employer was
successful on appeal as the Appeals Officer held that a workplace
should not include the routes and each point of call for letter
carriers. The Appeals Officer relied on a strict interpretation of
section 125(1) to conclude that when the employer did not exercise
control of the location that no inspection obligation could exist.
The Appeals Officer also noted that the purpose of the inspections
is to identify and fix hazards which would not be served if the
employer did not control the workplace.
The Federal Court upheld the Appeals Officer's decision on
the basis that the purpose of the inspections can only be achieved
when the employer is in control or in the position to identify and
fix hazards. The Court recognized that the Appeals Officer's
interpretation continued to create a broad obligation on employers
to ensure health and safety but did not create obligations that
would be impossible to fulfill.
This decision is important to any federal employer who has
employees working in different locations outside of a controlled
workplace, such as telecommunication employees installing systems
at individual residences, truck or rail drivers making deliveries
to different points of call or airline employees working at
airports. Based on this decision the key question employers should
ask to determine if they are fulfilling their inspection obligation
is if they control the workplace. Despite this limitation employers
should continue to take steps to ensure the health and safety of
their employees; however, the Code will not impose
unreasonable expectations or requirements for inspections.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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