In an effort to demonstrate how regular inspections and hazard identification can really help employers to prevent workplace incidents, in this blog we decided to interview Clear Path's Health & Safety expert, Denise Williams CRSP. We asked Denise to review two recent convictions found on the Ontario Ministry of Labour court bulletins posted on their website. Denise shares her tips on how to prevent workplace injuries by placing more importance on inspections and recognizing hazards. We hope these tips will help you avoid incurring similar charges from the Ontario Ministry of Labour like the companies listed in the scenarios below.
Toronto, ON - Res 2000 Structures Inc., a Cookstown constructor, was fined $160,000 for a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act after a worker was killed. On March 12, 2010, workers were installing formwork and concrete at a building project in Toronto when a worker fell about 10 meters through an opening in a concrete slab. The worker died as a result of the fall.
A Ministry of Labour investigation found that the opening's protective floor covering, which was unmarked and unsecured, had been removed before the worker fell through.
Res 2000 Structures Inc. pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that the floor covering completely covered the opening in the work surface, was securely fastened and was adequately identified as covering an opening.
We asked Denise, "Would regular workplace inspections have identified this issue? Why are inspections so important"
" Definitely! If this workers on this site were performing regular planned supervisor inspections they should have been able to identify hazards like the one above, implemented a control to neutralize the hazard and prevent an injury and potentially the fatality in this case. Regular workplace inspections and hazard identification:
Employers, Supervisors AND Employees have a general duty to do everything reasonable in their workplace to protect everyone's health and safety. To build a culture of safety between this Internal Responsibility System (IRS), it is also of outmost importance to be completing unplanned inspections, and "eating and breathing" the concept of controlling hazards."
Hamilton, ON - Triple M Metal Corp., a Brampton company that recycles metal, was fined $75,000 for a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act after a worker was injured. On May 25, 2010, at the company's facility in Hamilton, a worker was using a torch to cut a railcar coupling. The coupling contained a cylinder that held compressed hydraulic fluids. The torch pierced the cylinder, allowing the hydraulic fluids to escape and ignite. The worker suffered second and third degree burns.
A Ministry of Labour investigation found that the company's procedures to identify hazardous materials failed to ensure that objects containing compressed hydraulic fluids were not cut using torches.
Triple M Metal Corp. pleaded guilty to failing take the reasonable precaution of having a safe procedure to ensure that objects being cut contained no hazardous materials.
We asked Denise, "Can you help us understand what hazard identification is and how this might have prevented this unfortunate incident?"
Hazard recognition is a documentation process that is required during your workplace inspections (daily, weekly monthly, annually etc) to ensure ALL areas of the workplace are safe and continuously maintained. The documentation can be done in a variety of forms:
In this case having a documented Hazard Recognition process would have ensured this worker checked his workstation and materials prior to utilizing tools or equipment that might cause a workplace incident. Keeping your policies and procedures up-to-date, training your workers and supervisors on how to keep your business a safe place for everyone to work will help you avoid workplace injuries and Ministry of Labour visits by identifying exposures in your workplace."
The Ontario Ministry of Labour posts court bulletins on their website in regards to convictions and violations of the Ministry of Labour. http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/
If you are concerned that you might be next on the MOL's hit list, join Denise as she presents more real world tips and strategies during Clear Path's Safety Inspections learning sessions coming up on Tuesday May 8th 2012.
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Recently we came across an article on Healthzone.ca that discussed a situation in Toronto with regards to accessibility for Ontarians.
A Starbucks in Toronto installed an access ramp in October 2011, much to the delight of patrons desiring a fully accessible entrance. The management company of the building stated they "thought it was the right thing for us to do, to put the handicapped ramp along the west side of the building to access Starbucks."
Unfortunately the ramp was removed two weeks later from the city owned sidewalk. Toronto city manager Kyp Perikleous stated that the permit had been denied, due to the fact that the ramp forced pedestrians to walk on the boulevard, and also presented an issue when it came to the clearing of snow and ice in the winter. States Kyp, "If we allow individual properties to start putting things right on the sidewalks, we're not being fair to all residents."
This can be confusing for business owners, with the recent Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act passed in 2005, where Ontario is working towards a fully accessible province by 2025.
However, it is important to note that the first standard to be compliant with (by January 1st 2012), is the A.O.D.A Customer Service Standard which requires Ontario businesses to provide their goods and services in a way that is accessible for all Ontarians. The Customer Service Standard does not requirephysical changes to increase the accessibility.
There are 5 Standards within the A.O.D.A., consisting of the Customer Service Standard, Transportation Standard, Information & Communication Standard, Employment Standard and the lastly the Built Standard. The Built Standard is still currently in development, meaning there are no legislative requirements at the moment specific to the A.O.D.A to make your establishment physically accessible.
While it is commendable that Starbucks is trying to make their facility fully accessible for all patrons, the lesson to be learned here is to be sure your city's bylaws allow such a ramp and that you get an approved permit to build before you implement any changes to the physical accessibility of your building.
As described in the article, one of Starbucks customers for the last four years has knocked at the side door to order her latte and have it brought to her. Under the A.O.D.A Customer Service Standard, this appears to be an acceptable way to provide the goods and service. This particular Starbucks location has developed a policy and procedure in which to serve customers who are not able to access their facility, while adhering to the four core principles of dignity, independence, integration and equality of opportunity.
Remember, many obligations can be met with modest measures under the A.O.D.A Customer Service Standard, and many are simply a courtesy that providers may have not considered before.
Learn more about the A.O.D.A Customer Service Standard and access resources by clicking here.
Get compliant with Clear Path's A.O.D.A Do-it-Yourself Package!
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April 28th is the National Day of Mourning in Canada, to commemorate workers whose lives have been lost or injured in the workplace.
The National Day of Mourning was officially recognized by the federal government in 1991. At present time about 80 countries around the world recognize April 28th as their National Day of Mourning for lost or injured workers.
Businesses are asked to participate in this day by declaring April 28th as their day of mourning and observe a moment of silence. The goal of this annual observance is to create awareness about the importance of Health & Safety Programs in the Workplace and establishing safe work conditions for all. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety states: "It is as much a day to remember the dead as it is a call to protect the living."
In 2010 there were 1014* documented workplace fatalities, which is an increase from 939 in 2009. This averages out to 2.78 each day.
Maintaining a "culture of safety" at your business is critical for protecting the well-being of your employees and for creating a productive, effective working environment. Not meeting the required standards can result in fines, lost productivity, direct involvement by the Ministry of Labour and WSIB in your business, and worst of all, injury or death of your workers.
Clear Path recommends the following tips for implementing and managing your Health & Safety Program:
*Fatalities accepted in 2010 according to "Number of Fatalities, by Jurisdiction 1993-2010" summary table, statistics from the Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada.
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With the Workwell Audit list being delayed this year you may be one of those companies who are anxiously waiting to find out if they made the list this year. Or you may be one of those companies who have no idea that Workwell exists until they receive their letter in the mail or receive the call.
What is Workwell and why should we be concerned? According to the WSIB Workwell website.... Workwell exists "because unsafe companies increase insurance and compensation costs for everyone... the WSIB's Workwell program performs on-site health and safety evaluations of firms when their injury experience indicates that there is a higher risk of injury at their workplace (compared to other firms doing similar work)."
Workwell is an "all or nothing" point based system that focuses on 12 areas of Health & Safety called "elements." The auditor will visit your workplace and examine Health & Safety policies, procedures, records and other related documents, as well as observe safe practices and procedures in action, inspect the workplace and interview staff and management. Auditors are looking for consistent application, implementation and enforcement of your company's Health & Safety Program with documentation required to show that all staff have been trained and transference of knowledge has occurred.
Why would you be on the list? Workwell identifies employers with:
What are the consequences of failing an Audit? Employers must achieve a score of 75% or better to pass. 75% of employers will fail their first audit, 24% fail the second time. If you fail your first audit you will be given approximately six months to put your "house" in order before your second evaluation.
The consequences of failing your second audit are costly in many ways. Namely the financial penalties (10-70% of your WSIB premium), potential increases in future WSIB costs, possible stop work orders, more frequent visits from the MOL, and potential damage to your employee's morale, and company's reputation.
Workwell works on the premise that Safety is Everyone's business. Measuring the strength of your Health & Safety program should always be an ongoing continuous process. Even if you are not facing an actual Audit, the Workwell program is an excellent guide to help you develop a Health & Safety Program and potentially avoid an Audit in future.
A Workwell Audit can be turned into a positive experience that delivers benefits and not fines. Clear Path can help you be confident that your company, management and employees are fully prepared to pass the first time.
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The numbers don't lie. Mental health claims are on the rise. The Mental Health Commission of Canada estimates that one in five Canadians will experience mental health related issues this year. This problem is estimated to cost $20-billion a year in workplace losses. Additionally a recent WSIAT decision (Decision 483/11) expanded the scope of mental health claims benefits entitlement, so now more than ever employers should be re-evaluating their claims management processes to reduce costs.
The return to work process for workplace injury claims and mental health claims can be a tricky process to navigate. As an employer, you want to manage your costs effectively and minimize the impact of delays on your NEER statement. Quite often employers become frustrated with vague doctor's notes from the employee's physician that do not indicate when an employee can return to work, but only indicate that simply more time off is required.
As Laura Williams, a Human Resources Lawyer at Williams HR Law states in a recent article in the March/April 2012 HR Professional: "Employers should be aware that legislative obligations entitle them to request that the employee provide more detailed medical information." This entitlement stems from the employer's obligation to accommodate as required by federal and provincial human rights legislation.
Medical management empowers your organization and put's you in the driver's seat rather than waiting on WSIB or the worker's physician for answers. Introducing an objective independent medical consultant early on in the process to obtain accident history, ongoing treatment plans, and discuss modified duties is an effective way to manage these complicated claims. This person can drive the RTW process by connecting with treating practitioners, following up with the worker, identifying need for independent medical assessments, assist with challenging board decisions as necessary with medical opinion and ultimately reduce lost time and costs.
If you choose not to utilize a medical consultant, remember that as an employer you are still entitled to request more detailed medical information beyond a typical short doctor's note. To assess whether you can accommodate an employee's return to work you are entitled to:
Be proactive and you will see a faster recovery and resolution of the claim, and reduce your WSIB mental health claims costs in the process.
Join us Thursday April 19th in Mississauga for Handling a WSIB Mental Health claim where we discuss recent trends in WSIB mental health claims, strategies for finding an independent medical consultant, and monitoring a return to work plan to ensure successful return to work.
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Back in January of this year, the large U.S corporation Papa John's found itself in hot water after an employee at one of their franchises used a racial slur to describe a customer on a receipt. The process that ensued afterwards reinforces the importance of carefully drafted company policies when a termination for cause situation arises.
Minhee Cho, a 24 year old Korean American received the receipt for her in-store order and noticed her name was listed as "lady chinky eyes." She took a photo and posted it to Twitter writing, "Hey @PapaJohns just FYI my name isn't 'lady chinky eyes'."
Papa John's stated on their Facebook Page, "This act goes against our company values, and we've confirmed with the franchisee that this matter was addressed immediately." However the store owner of the franchise only stated that he was sending the employee to sensitivity training, and a manager stated that the staff sometimes uses terms like that to identify people because it is a busy restaurant and that the cashier "meant no harm." Very damaging comments to be making to the general public and media.
The Papa John's corporation took the matter a step further and tweeted, "We are very upset by recent receipt issue in New York and sincerely apologize to our customer. Franchise employee involved is being terminated."
What lessons can we learn from this situation? How would the resolution to this situation have differed in Canada?
This type of immediate termination would not be acceptable in Canada and potentially put the company at an high level of legal risk. Under the Canadian Human Code, an employer would have a difficult time terminating an employee in this scenario. Even assuming they had a clearly defined policy that outlined the disciplinary measures for this type of conduct, termination for cause requires a breach of company policy or practise and a documented series of written warnings or disciplinary actions. Best practices dictate that an employer should utilize a progressive approach to discipline which would include a warning and opportunity to correct the behaviour - especially if this is a one time occurrence. In the Papa John's case it is likely that the sudden rush of negative publicity prompted the quick decision, without conducting a complete investigation.
The response to this situation also sent mixed messages to the public. The inconsistent public persona portrayed by the corporation and the franchisee vastly differed in terms of their public declarations of how the matter would be handled. In addition to the issues surrounding the termination, this situation highlights how companies with multiple locations are recommended to have a policy in place surrounding when and who can speak to media outlets or simply not allow it at all. In this case the store owner and a manager stated rather damaging remarks that contradicted Papa John's corporate social media messages.
Are you currently struggling with a termination situation? Not sure how to navigate a termination for cause? Join us on Tuesday October 16th for our session on Hiring and Firing Effectively.
Source: Yahoo News: http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-buzz/papa-john-employee-fired-racial-slur-receipt-180158302.html
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