Threshold for C-45 charges

Does an accident have to happen for an employer to be criminally charged?
By Brian Kenny
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 03/18/2015

Question: In order for a person to be charged and convicted under section 217.1 of the Canadian Criminal Code (C-45 law), is bodily harm required? For example, if equipment being used by employees is known to be in unsafe condition that could result in serious injury or death, can charges be laid before something happens if nothing is done to address the situation?

Answer: Section 217.1 of the Criminal Code places a legal duty on everyone who undertakes or has authority to direct how others work or perform a task, to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to the person performing the work or task, and to any other person. However it does not in and of itself establish a new criminal offence. Rather, it establishes a legal duty, which, if breached, may result in charges under another criminal code provision, for example criminal negligence (s. 219), causing death by criminal negligence (s. 220), or criminal negligence causing bodily harm (s. 221). While the latter two sections clearly require actual harm to result, criminal negligence does not specifically require actual harm for a conviction.