Ontario court broadens injury reporting requirements for employers

Inclusive definition of 'workplace' and 'person' under health and safety legislation increases obligations for resorts and other tourist operations
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 06/08/2011

In a decision that will have far reaching implications for the Ontario resort and tourism industry, the Divisional Court of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has upheld an Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) decision that injuries to guests must be reported to the Ministry of Labour (MOL).

Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) stipulates that critical and fatal injuries must be reported to the provincial health and safety regulator, the MOL. This has generally been understood to apply to injuries to employees or workers. However, on May 18, 2011, the Divisional Court upheld a ruling by the OLRB that this obligation also extends to non-employees, such as guests at resorts or other tourism facilities.

In December 2007, a guest at Blue Mountain Resorts near Collingwood, Ont., drowned in an indoor swimming pool. There were no workers present. Blue Mountain didn’t report the incident to the MOL because a worker wasn’t involved. However, three months later, an MOL inspector learned of the accident and ordered Blue Mountain to comply with a section of the OHSA — s. 51(2) — requiring reporting when a “person is killed or critically injured from any cause at a workplace.” The guest was clearly not a worker governed by the OHSA but the OLRB upheld the order.

The court rejected the judicial review application of Blue Mountain, upheld the decision of the OLRB and dismissed the case. The direct result of this decision is that all resorts and tourism operations, and any other employers that have interaction with the public, must now report any and all critical or fatal injuries that occur in the workplace to the MOL. This ruling, presumably, would also apply to public highways, shopping malls, parks and conservation areas throughout Ontario where workers will, from time to time, perform work to which the public has access. The court’s decision necessarily requires a much broader approach by all private and public employers in Ontario of their obligations to report critical and fatal injuries to the MOL.

For more on this decision that could have major ramifications for employers who have non-workers in the workplace, please see the June 29, 2011, issue of Canadian Employment Law Today.

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