Attention to workplace safety saves lives and money for employers

Recent cases show employers can face hefty fines under health and safety legislation if workers are endangered
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today

Occupational health and safety is a major concern for employers these days, not just for the sake of employees, but also because of the consequences employers can face. Across the country, courts are making employers pay if they fail to live up to their obligation of providing a safe workplace under occupational health and safety legislation and workers are killed or injured as a result. Recent cases show courts aren’t afraid to impose significant fines on employers found to be endangering their workers.

Alberta employers ignored safety procedures

Alberta companies in particular have been nailed with large fines after courts dished out $1,720,000 in fines to 12 companies for unsafe workplace practices in 2007, the most in any year yet. The crackdown seems to be continuing in 2008, as two companies were nailed for a total of $650,000 combined by the Provincial Court of Alberta in January. On May 29, 2004, a worker for Slave Lake, Alta.-based DSI Construction Ltd. fell more than four metres from a rolling scaffold onto a concrete floor at a construction site, killing him. The ensuing investigation discovered DSI hadn’t properly trained its workers in safety procedures, it didn’t provide written copies of proper procedures and plans to its workers, it didn’t inspect the scaffolding or ensure a fall protection plan was in place and it allowed the worker to remain on the rolling scaffold while it was moved. All of these were violations of the act.