Many employers aren't prepared if there is a workplace
accident that results in injury to an employee – both in
terms of how to respond and plan internally and how to comply with
the laws and regulations that employers must follow.
Picture this: You are a senior manager for medium sized
manufacturing company. It is Monday morning and you have just
settled into your weekly management meeting. Suddenly, you hear a
large "bang". At first you think nothing of it, just the
usual sounds from the shop floor. However, five minutes later, your
floor supervisor comes into the room and says, "there's
been an accident and John has been hurt." There is panic in
the room and everyone is looking to you to figure out what to
So, do you know what to do?
When there is a workplace accident, there is a legal obligation
under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to
The workplace health and safety rep
or joint health and safety committee; and
The Ministry of Labour.
The timing of the notice varies depending on the extent of the
injury but for fatalities or "critical injuries" (such as
a fracture or serious loss of blood) the legislation requires that
employers IMMEDIATELY notify the Ministry of Labour and provide
details of the accident, machinery involved, time and location and
the names and addresses of those injured and those who witnessed
In addition to this duty to notify, in the event of a
"critical injury", subject to some limited exceptions,
employers must "preserve the scene". In other words,
employers must not interfere with or disturb anything connected
with the scene of the accident until given permission to do so by
the Ministry of Labour.
It is important to note that the duty to notify the Ministry of
Labour is not just for accidents involving employees. Recent court
cases have confirmed that this duty applies to any person at the
workplace (whether that be a customer, supplier, employee or
otherwise) as long as there is a connection or "nexus"
between the accident and worker safety.
Once the Ministry of Labour has been notified, employers can
expect a visit from an inspector. An inspector has extremely broad
powers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to
attend the premises, collect documents, take pictures and order the
employer to create or review policies, test or fix machinery or
even halt production (this is called a "stop work
order"). A visit from an inspector could result in charges
being laid against the employer (or even individual supervisors or
workers) under the Provincial Offences Act. So, besides
understanding what to do in the immediate aftermath of an accident,
it is vital that employers get legal representation to advise on
how to deal with the inspector and to strategize for potential
While accidents are unavoidable sometimes, being prepared is
something that all employers can do. This is not only important in
ensuring the safety and well-being of staff, but it is critical in
avoiding costly penalties and charges under the Occupational
Health and Safety Act, which could be as high as $500,000.
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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