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Money talks.  And money is a great motivator. 

Certainly, governments know this, which is part of the reason the province of Ontario is going after safety violations with fines of up to $1.5 million.  It’s a major escalation designed to focus all of our attention on worker safety.

The specifics are contained within Bill 88, The Working for Workers Act, 2022 which has passed first reading at Queen’s Park and will soon be at committee and the public hearings stage.  Contained within Bill 88 are proposed regulations stipulating fines be increased to $1.5 million, up from $100,000 for directors and officers of a corporation for Occupational Health and Safety Act contraventions.

Bill 88 also proposes maximum fines be raised to $500,000 from $100,000 for “other individuals,” thus broadening the scope of those who can be held responsible for safety breaches.   This is definitely an attention-getter for anyone involved in the management and governance of workplaces and their respective safety programs. 

In terms of the fines, the legislation would if passed: “enhance worker protection and ensure that employers are held responsible for not complying with health and safety laws by increasing the maximum fines for operators and directors of businesses that fail to provide a safe work environment that leads to a worker being severely injured or dying on the job.”

At Cobalt Safety, we employ teams of safety experts and specialists, many of whom are former inspectors and investigators with a keen eye for spotting deficiencies and weaknesses in safety programs.  We see, on a daily basis, lapses in workplace safety systems that can lead to injury and violations of regulations that can result in these fines. 

Job site safety is about due diligence – every day. 

The press release from the Ontario Government goes on to state: Bill 88 is designed to “deliver better protections, bigger paycheques and greater opportunities for workers and their families.”    

Also included in the Bill are “measures to reduce the risk of death caused by opioid overdoses in the workplace by requiring employers to provide naloxone kits in workplaces where overdoses are a potential hazard.”

This is an added responsibility aiming to help employees caught up in the dangerous opioid epidemic that we all know reaches into the worker ranks.

I struggle with a section buried deep Bill -88 (page 35 section 4) in which you will see a simple statement of “strike out one year and substitute two years”.  This little change in wording will have big ramifications for employers involved with any interactions of the MLTSD that may result in litigation actions. Employers would now have to wait two years to find out if there has been a charge for violation of the OHSA or regulations. This is an unnecessary burden added onto employers in Ontario and the delay in the prosecution, will also delay the court case. I fail how to see how this extension in the investigation findings is in the best interest of the Public Welfare, any involved family or is in line with the intent of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Section 11 provision of “any person (which includes corporations) charged with an offence has the right to be informed without unreasonable delay of the specific offence”. The MLTSD currently has 364 days to bring forth a prosecution and in my opinion, that is sufficient. I’m not a lawyer to weigh in on the legalities, however, I believe justice should be “reasonable” in its delivery.

Yes, it’s challenging to keep pace with ever-changing regulations.  Too many workplaces and employers believe their safety programs are robust enough to protect their workers and thus protect them from liabilities associated with tragic events.  It’s hoped these steep new fines will add pressure to ensure safe environments.  Sure, money is a great motivator.  But getting our brothers and sisters home safely every day from a job site is the greatest motivator of all.

Kevin Brown

Founder & CEO, Cobalt Safety Consulting

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