An Ontario company was fined $90,000 after a worker suffers critical injuries in a fall from heights

Courts fined an Ontario company $90,000 after a worker suffers critical injuries in a fall from heights. Santoro Construction Ltd. (Santoro) was the constructor of a project at 27 Fasken Drive in Toronto. The company contracted with GMJ Electric Inc. to perform all the required electrical installations at the above project site. GMJ Electric Inc. (GMJ) was the company that employed the worker who suffered critical injuries.

Key facts relating to the case:

  • In renovated office area’s ceiling, the worker along with a co-worker were tying in and labelling electrical wiring.
  • The worker was working on the top third rung of a 10-foot step ladder. In trying to reach into an area above the grid of a drop ceiling, the worker fell from the ladder to the floor and suffered critical injuries.
  • Investigation showed that Santoro Construction Inc. failed to provide the worker with the equipment that will be appropriate for situations where work cannot be performed either on or from the ground without hazard to workers. (Source: MOL Court Bulletin, 2018)

What were the regulatory violations?

Santoro Construction Inc. violated section 125(1) of the Construction Projects Regulation (Ontario Regulation 213/91) under the OHSA. Moreover, in situations where a worker cannot perform work on or from the ground without hazard to the worker:

The regulation clearly requires a constructor to provide a worker with the following:

  • A scaffold
  • A suspended work platform
  • A boatswain’s chair or
  • A multi-point suspended work platform.

There will be a separate trail with GMJ Electric and an individual as the defendants. This is scheduled to begin in July 2018 as per the MOL Court Bulletin.

How can an online subcontractor OHS management system help?

An online OHS management system such as 4SafeCom™ Subcontractor Management System serves as a live information-sharing platform between an organization and its subcontractors. As an employer, you can manage all the required OHS documents of your subcontractors efficiently using the system.

Following are some of the key benefits of using a subcontractor OHS management system:

Get your subcontractors to review and acknowledge your policies and procedures

As an employer, you can request your subcontractors to review and acknowledge your company’s policies and procedures. In fact, this is a vital step towards ensuring higher awareness of company’s policies for different job tasks. Moreover, review and acknowledgement of policies and procedures helps improve overall workplace safety. Further, they serve as vital due diligence documents for the employer. Santoro could have shared their company’s policies and procedures with their subcontractors. Once GMJ reviews and acknowledges these policies, they’d aware of safe work procedures in the case’s scenario.

Conduct and record supervisor’s communication with workers in weekly tool box meetings

Companies can use an online OHS subcontractor management system for recording key communication. This could include site supervisor’s communication with subcontractor’s workers in weekly tool box meetings. As per section 27(2)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, a supervisor has the “Duty to tell”. In fact, the Act requires that a supervisor shall advise a worker about the existence of any potential or actual danger to the health and safety of the worker of which the supervisor is aware.

One crucial point to note with regards to this duty is that it is a regulation independent duty. Therefore, the supervisor would have to tell his workers about workplace hazards known to him or her. This applies even in situations where the employer is not aware of those hazards. Thus, a supervisor has a ‘duty to tell’ workers about potential hazards at the workplace. Supervisors can share hazard-specific information easily with their workers using an OHS subcontractor management system. Moreover, they can record the communication for future reference and monitoring purposes.

Under 27(2)(c) of the OHSA

A supervisor has the duty to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for protecting the workers’ safety. This might sound very generic and simple. However, it is one of the most important parts of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Companies can use an online OHS management system to record toolbox talks effectively. Further, they can use the system for recording supervisor communication to form part of the due diligence process.

Site orientation

An online subcontractor management system allows employers to get their subcontractors to complete a site-specific orientation before commencing their work at the project site. The orientation will have a time stamp of completion, which serves as an effective due diligence tool as far an workplace safety for subcontractors is concerned. Santoro Construction Ltd. could have used the online system to conduct a site-specific orientation for the subcontractor GMJ Electric Inc. This would have helped the subcontractor’s employees in understanding Santoro Construction Ltd.’s requirements regarding situations where work cannot be performed on or from the ground without hazard to workers. This again serves as an effective due diligence tool.

Review training records and notifications for expired records

One of the biggest advantages of using an online subcontractor OHS management system is that it helps a company review the training records of all its subcontractors, which they would have uploaded using the system. Moreover, as an employer, you can receive timely notifications through the system in cases where training records are either about to expire or have expired. This is extremely important in case of mandatory hazard-specific training requirements such as Working at Heights. The system will notify the company in case of expired Working at Heights training. Further, when OHS documents such as WSIB clearance certificate, workers’ compensation documents, and general liability insurance expire or are about to expire, the system sends notifications to the company. Santoro Construction Ltd. would have also benefited through this feature using an online subcontractor OHS management system.

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