A Story About Why You Need Written Health and Safety Procedures
Read a true story about a Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspection that proved costly for a small landscaping business.Before you get into this story, please note, we have changed the names of the workers. This story is just a way to keep business owners educated on the need for health and safety procedures. This story does not constitute legal advice.
A Ministry of Labour (MOL) Inspection
On Wednesday May 1, 2013 an Ontario Ministry of Labour inspector paid an unannounced field site visit to a small landscaping business. When we say small, the business has less than 10 people—including a working owner and two crews. Apparently the MOL inspector was not having a good day, and within an hour of arriving at the site identified 13 specific contraventions of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). 9 of the 13 contraventions related to Health and Safety postings, and not having or communicating the correct safety procedures.
When a MOL inspector finds contraventions of the OHSA they have a number of options:
Option #1 – The Inspector Can Write a Ticket
A ticket from the MOL is similar to a speeding ticket. Inspectors can write one for each contravention. There’s usually a specific amount for a fine depending on your status – like $295.00 for an owner or $195.00 for a worker (plus a 25% so-called victim surcharge).
Option #2 – An Inspector Can Issue Safety Orders
An order is a formal request from the MOL to do something by a specific date that corrects the problems. Orders usually don’t come with a fine, but they can take up a lot of time and cost, especially if you need to fix equipment, write health and safety procedures, or retrain workers.
Option #3 – An Inspector Can Lay Charges Against a Person or Company
The charging option is guaranteed to cost your business a significant amount of time and money!
What Can A Company Do About Health and Safety Procedures After an Inspection?
Let’s continue on with the story.
Now the owner of the company – let’s call him Jimmy – is a hands-on, hard-working owner. The inspector gave Jimmy Orders to comply to Health and Safety standards by a certain date. Jimmy, took the written Orders and filed them away in a safe place in the office.
He promptly forgot about them.
One year later the MOL returned, unannounced, looking for proof that Jimmy addressed the Safety Orders. Jimmy—a hardworking honest guy—scratched his head and said, “Oh yeah, I’m getting around to that stuff soon.”. But the thing about Safety Orders is that if you don’t address them by the date stated, and if you don’t formally submit a Notice of Compliance on time to the MOL, the Safety Orders turn into CHARGES!
Offences and Penalties of the OHSA
If you check out Section 66 of Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act OHSA (Offences and Penalties) you will notice:
1) Charges against a person come with a maximum $25,000 fine and/or twelve months in jail
2) Charges against a corporation come with a maximum $500,000 fine.
Now for 13 charges against Jimmy’s company the maximum financial penalty theoretically could have been 13 x $500,000 = $6.5 million Canuck bucks! Once I explained this to Jimmy he promptly started making plans to move to Mexico. Luckily, and as anyone who has had the pleasure of fighting a traffic ticket knows, it is never a bad idea to go to the courthouse and have a little business chat with the prosecutor – they are always interested in making a deal!
Before meeting with the local Provincial Offences Act (POA) Court prosecutor, Jimmy took the very sensible approach of making sure that his company complied with all applicable legal safety requirements. Jimmy paid particular attention to ensuring that all monthly workplace inspections were completed, as well as all required company safety policies and procedures. Additionally, Jimmy made sure that all company policies were communicated to workers and that all safety training was current and documented.
Once all his ducks were in a row, Jimmy had a fairly quick meeting with the local POA prosecutor and he came out with what he considered a good deal (based on the alternatives). He needed to pay an $8000 fine with flexible financing options.
Not too bad! But all that time and money could have been saved, if only Jimmy complied with Health and Safety standards in the first place!
Don’t Be Surprised Like Jimmy. Get Your Health and Safety Policies and Procedures in Place Today!
Chevreau Consulting is here to make sure your company complies with the Ontario Health and Safety Act. We want your company’s safety program completed. This not only keeps your workers safe, but keeps your company out of legal and financial debts
Don’t hesitate to contact us today! We can provide you with a free phone assessment with just a quick call 519-635-0574. We are happy to provide you more information and answer your questions about Health and Safety Procedures. With experience and knowledge in the Health and Safety fields turn to Chevreau Consulting for your workplace needs.