The occupational health and safety field saw many changes in 2018, many of which had a significant impact on contractor health and safety. Here are some of the biggest changes to contractor health and safety laws from the past year and why these advances still matter for your business in the new year.
- The legalization of cannabis—The use of cannabis for recreational purposes became legal across Canada in 2018, creating the need for employers to learn more about how to manage the implications of impaired workers. Just like employers can ban the use of alcohol and other drugs that can cause impairment, business owners can still prohibit using cannabis in the workplace and coming to work under the influence of this drug.
- Ontario OHSA—Near the end of 2018, some of the most significant changes in almost three decades were made to Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). Up until these changes were enacted, violating the OHSA came with a penalty of a $500,000 fine (for corporations) and a $25,000 fine (for individuals). Now, fines for violating OHSA are $1,500,000 for businesses and $100,000 for individuals.
- Safety laws in Alberta—On June 1, 2018, a bill to protect the health and wellbeing of workers in Alberta repealed and replaced the standing Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act. Some of the key changes to this act involved instituting measures to ensure workers are aware of their rights and duties, increase reporting of incidents that could have resulted in serious injury, and instill written health and safety programs in certain workplaces.
- Manslaughter conviction—In September 2018, contractor Sylvain Fournier was sentenced to 18 months in prison with two years of probation after being convicted of committing manslaughter due to work performed on an unprotected trench. This unique case served as a reminder to business owners and contractors that serious workplace accidents can result in criminal convictions if proper measures for protecting contractor health and safety are not taken.
- Director responsibility—The decision made in the case 1137749 Ontario Ltd. o/a Pro-Teck Electric illustrates that directors can be held responsible on a personal level for fines targeted at a corporation if regulatory legislation is breached. In this particular case, a corporation pled guilty to charges under the Electricity Act and was required to pay fines worth approximately $430,000.
- “Owner” as employer—In another groundbreaking case, West Fraser Mills Ltd. v British Columbia (Workers Compensation Appeal Tribunal), the Supreme Court of Canada determined that site owners can be held liable under British Columbia’s Workers Compensation Act. This decision was made following a case that involved a tree feller who was killed while performing work in an area with a forest license. The feller was not an employee of a company, so the license owner was perceived as the “owner” of the worksite and held responsible for the accident.