THE EMPLOYERS' EDGE
Substantial fines for failing to cooperate with inspection under OHSA
The Ministry of Labour released news of two recent convictions under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”). While the Ministry releases such decisions frequently as part of its campaign to enforce the OHSA, these two are of particular note as they indicate hefty fines for individuals found guilty of obstructing Ministry of Labour investigations.
In the first case an employer representative, Marcelo Ponciano, from Toronto-based Asbescan Environmental Company Inc. was fined $15,000.00 plus a 25% victim surcharge fine for failing to cooperate with Ministry inspectors. An inspector had originally issued stop-work orders on a home renovation project on Roxton Road in Toronto to deal with, among other things, asbestos concerns. When Ministry inspectors re-attended two days later, they were approached by an individual who said he had been called to handle the asbestos issues. However, the individual was informed by the inspectors that no work could be done before a hygienist from the Ministry could take samples to determine asbestos levels. The next morning, despite being warned again that no work could proceed without the hygienist, the worker took his own samples; he continued to do so even after being told by the inspectors to stop. The individual then refused to identify himself, and advised his co-worker to do the same.
In the second case Lushington Grant, sole proprietor of Mississauga-based Century Estates, was fined $20,000.00 in fines for obstructing an inspector and for providing false information. Ministry of Labour inspectors attended a construction project in Vaughan and found numerous violations of the OHSA. However, when Grant arrived on the site he refused to answer questions put to him by a Ministry of Labour inspector and then left the jobsite. When a Ministry of Labour inspector returned to the jobsite later that month to serve one of the workers with an offence notice, Grant provided false information to the inspector about that worker.
Both of these convictions demonstrate the importance that the Ministry of Labour and the Courts attach to the general obligations under the OHSA to cooperate with inspectors when they arrive on jobsites or in workplaces. Section 62 of the OHSA sets out the specific requirements with respect to obstruction, providing false information and providing assistance to Ministry of Labour inspectors. Breach of these obligations, as we see from the cases above, can lead to severe consequences – even for individuals.
However, you also have rights – as an employer, supervisor or worker – when the Ministry of Labour attends at your workplace. In certain circumstances, this can include the right not to answer questions, where you have been informed that the investigation may lead to certain types of charges. In other circumstances, you may also be able to have legal counsel attend before an investigation gets under way.
In addition to reviewing the resources available on our website, consultation with the members of the CCP Team will help employers and supervisors better understand their rights/obligations when the Ministry of Labour attends at a workplace in order to avoid the convictions, fines and the negative publicity generated by the conduct described in the above decisions.
Please Note: This blog has been prepared as an informational service for our clients and other interested parties. It is not intended to constitute legal advice, a complete statement of the law or opinion on any subject. Although we endeavour to ensure the accuracy of the content, no one should act upon the information provided without a thorough examination of the law after the facts of a specific situation are fully considered.