August 21, 2013
Opinion divided on effectiveness of worker fines
Various segments of Western Canada's construction industry are lining up on different sides of the debate when it comes to worker fines for safety violations.
“The main issue is making workers accountable for their actions – that is the key,” said Don McNiven of McNiven Masonry in Kelowna, adding there is currently no incentive for employees to follow safety regulations on the job, if the employer is the only one cited or fined.
He maintained that if employees knew inspectors could fine them, the whole job culture would change.
B.C.’s Council of Construction Associations (COCA) is calling for WorkSafeBC to implement administrative fines, while Alberta adopted a system in April, and Saskatchewan is putting one in place.
Manitoba, through amendments to its Workplace Safety and Health Amendment Act, permits the province’s director of safety to issue administrative fines to “a person” found engaged in practices that are “likely to involve, an imminent risk of serious physical or health injury to a worker or other person.”
However, not everyone is in favour of the trend.
“My gut feeling is that it is ridiculous,” said Jan Noster, president of the Construction Maintenance and Allied Workers Union.
“But, the first thing that comes to mind is that we have to change the whole approach to safety.”
He said that if many accidents are reviewed, it often is related to faulty equipment or poor practices with on-site safety supervision a factor.
Noster added that 15 years ago, it was common to have a safety officer on site, who spent a major portion of his day performing interventions or consulting with employees on safety practices.
“Most safety officers today only push paper,” he said.
Noster added that 90 per cent of the time they are on site in trailers documenting for the companies due diligence in the event of a claim.
“Adding more paper does not make anyone safer,” he said.
Wayne Fettback, a partner in Western Pacific Enterprises, doesn’t see fines as the solution, but he wants WorkSafeBC to write orders on workers when they disobey safety regulations.
“By refusing to write orders, they are part of the problem rather than part of the solution,” he said.
Fettback issues his own warnings to workers failing to follow safety regulation, with multiple warnings resulting in job termination.
He is currently installing a software program that will track the infractions, hoping it will pinpoint patterns of behavior that can prevent accidents, but also identify employees not conforming to on-site regulations.
He pointed out that WorkSafeBC has information on non-complying employers, but it has nothing on employees.
In B.C., COCA has been openly critical of WorkSafeBC inspectors, who fail to cite employees for failing to work safely. Less than one per cent of citations are for workers.
COCA president Grant McMillan believes the reluctance stems from past practice and inspectors being unclear on when to write up an employee.
“We, in the construction industry, are clear on when it should be done,” he said, citing the example of employers providing training and gear, but getting ignored.
Alberta recently introduced the ability to impose administrative fines on employees.
“There will be no more slaps on the wrist in Alberta. A worker or employer, who puts health and safety at risk, or is misleading or unfair in their business dealings, will be held accountable,” said Human Services Minister Dave Hancock in a press release.
Ray Anthony, director of safety services for the occupational safety health division of Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Labor Relations, said currently the province has a fines system administered through the courts.
“Right now, we do have a summary ticketing system in the works, but it is not yet in effect,” he said.
It started as a concept last fall and relates to specific portions of the province’s health and safety acts and regulations.
Noster is critical of a process that he believes is only there to protect the employer’s role in the event of a violation.
He takes issue with the training system when it is as rudimentary as a computer session with a pop quiz afterwards.
“We have to get back to the old system and have people walk the construction site and that would be more productive,” he said
Noster believes fines are redundant, as there are provisions under Canada’s criminal code to prosecute individuals who are negligent and cause injury or death to others.
The Manitoba Federation of Labor is also critical of administrative fines on employees.
“The employers have more than enough power in the workplace to enforce workplace regulations,” said Jean-Guy Bourgeois, with the federation.
“We believe that employees should be trained and work in a safe way – we don’t argue against that.”
|MOST POPULAR STORIES|
|TODAY’S TOP CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS|
These projects have been selected from 299 projects with a total value of $6,054,395,373 that Reed Construction Data Building Reports reported on Tuesday.
$1,400,000,000 Greater Vancouver RD BC Negotiated
$127,000,000 Coquitlam BC Negotiated
$100,000,000 Division No 16 AB Prebid
- Journal of Commerce Update for the week of December 16th, 2013
- New Westminster Development
- Natural gas generating facilities planned
- Refinery costs jump by $2.8 billion
- Employers must be aware of liability at holiday office parties
- New charges needed for infrastructure
- Skills Training at BCIT
- Auditor generals weigh in on value of P3s
- Low lead requirements kicking in next year
- Mental heath and workplace psychology must be addressed
- Edmonton International Airport mall takes shape
- University of Winnipeg building an apartment complex
- VIDEO: Construct Canada 2013 CEO Power Breakfast
- Toronto firms tops for Winnipeg hut designs
- Toronto architect releases music album
- Road pricing an effective congestion fighter, say experts
- What does “Local Knowledge” really mean in Ontario AFPs?
- United States construction employers add 17,000 jobs in November but growth is uneven, finds AGC
- Toronto housing starts dip: CMHC
- Active unions needed, says Segal
- Saint John Harbour Bridge project wraps up