As a supervisor, are you at risk for lackluster health and safety at your company?

Mar 14, 2016

Employees are generally happy to be promoted to a supervisory role. It typically means more money, more prestige and future career advancement. However, it also means more responsibility. This includes responsibilities related to health and safety in the workplace. As a supervisor, you are at risk if one of your employees is injured on the job.

Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA/ the Act”)

Under s. 27(1) of the OHSA, a supervisor shall ensure that a worker,

  1. Works in the manner and with the protective devices, measures and procedures required by this Act and the regulations; and
  2. Uses or wears the equipment, protective devices or clothing that the worker’s employer requires to be used or worn

27(2) sets out additional duties of supervisors including:

  1. advising a worker of the existence of any potential or actual danger to the heath or safety of the worker of which the supervisor is aware;
  2. where prescribed, providing a worker with written instructions as to the measures and procedures to be taken for protection of the worker; and
  3. taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker

An individual who contravenes the Act can be fined up to $25,000 and/or sentenced to up to 12 months in prison.

Criminal Code (“the Code”)

Similarly, the Criminal Code imposes duties on supervisors to ensure the safety of workers. Section 217.1 of the Criminal Code states:

“Every one who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.”

Charges under s. 217.1 of the Criminal Code are rare. A supervisor is more likely to be charged under OHSA. However, on January 11, 2016, Vadim Kazenelson, became the first person to be convicted and sentenced to prison for criminal negligence causing death under section 217.1.

On Christmas Eve 2009, Mr. Kazenelson was the project manager when an overloaded suspended platform, carrying himself and five other workers who were repairing exterior balconies of a high-rise apartment in Toronto, collapsed killing four of the workers and severely injuring the fifth. There were only two lifelines available on the suspended platform, but in fact only one worker was actually secured. For more information on this case, please see: R. v Vadim Kazenelson, 2015 ONSC 3639 and R. v Vadim Kazenelson, 2016 ONSC 25.

As a supervisor, it is important to remember that you are responsible for the safety of the workers under your supervision. Therefore, you need to make sure that your employer provides you with adequate training; otherwise, you will be exposed to legal liability.

If you have any questions about your legal duties and responsibilities as a supervisor, or if you have been charged under OHSA, one of our lawyers would be happy to meet with you. Please call 647-204-8107 or email [email protected].

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