Occupational Safety Complications

Occupational Safety Complications
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By Sriram Rangan


In the past, many supervisors in commercial operation have winked and nodded at occupational safety statutes meant to keep workers safe on the job.  Too often, even when sturdy fines are levied against the company while those in direct supervisory roles have been allowed to skirt their responsibilities. Recently, however, the tide in the casual relationship between safety regulations and those who are trusted to enforce them may have turned.


Vadim Kazenelson, was the project manager at a Toronto Construction site where, in 2009 swing-stage accident killed four workers. Kazenelson, as supervisor, knew that a swing-stage, by law, must be equipped with life lines for each worker. The swing-stage in question only had only two places for the workers to attach for safety and six men were using it.


The supervisor did not take any action to prevent the men from using the device, even though he knew it was inadequate for the six men who intended to use it. When the swing-stage failed, the one worker who used the safety device was left dangling high in the air. The other five men were sent hurtling over 100 feet to the ground to death and catastrophic injury. Ultimately, Kazenelson was charged with four counts of criminal negligence causing death, and one of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.


These charges were based on the responsibility outlined under section 217.1 of the Criminal Code which requires everyone who has authority to direct how a worker does his/her work or performs a task to “take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person or any other person arising from that work.”


The fact that Kazenelson was tried and convicted of these charges reflects the tough new stance occupational health and safety law is taking today.


Recently, the supervisor was sentenced to 3 ½ years in prison makung it abundantly clear that the obligation under section 217.1 is being taken more seriously than ever before.


It’s important to understand that the project manager in the case above didn’t encourage or coerce the workers to travel together on the stage. He simply did not meet his duty to take steps to prevent an accident.


One expects that workers who perform their jobs on high-rise buildings have strict and stringent safety standards, but safety regulations apply to jobs of all kinds and should be taken just as seriously. Whether you are a server in a restaurant or make your living driving a delivery truck, this case could have an impact upon your life.


If, for example, your employer doesn’t provide appropriate safeguards against slips and falls in the restaurant kitchen, and you are injured in such an accident, there are repercussions which can be brought to bear.


If your employer fails to take notice of tire wear that renders your delivery truck unsafe to drive– whether you bring it to his attention or not – he can be found in violation of the law and punished accordingly.


Probably the persons most seriously impacted in such safety regulation violations, however, is the middle-man, the supervisor. It is this man or woman whose action or inaction could easily spell trouble in the long-term.  If your job is to supervise the safety of others in the workplace, your job just got much more difficult and far more consequential.


If you are the supervisor in the restaurant situation or the trucking situations above, how do you balance your obligations to your employer against the dire penalties for not taking action? Must you quit your job? Do you ignore the problem and take the risk of serious injury or even death for others?


If you find yourself caught in the pinch between your gainful employment and obeying the laws around workplace safety, you need the help and advice of a legal professional (legal services) who can help you understand your options before the problem arrives in court.


Vagans Legal Service can help you make the best choices in situations such as these, and can even help you if you’ve already been caught unprepared as a negligent supervisor in the workplace. Call Vagan’s Legal Service today: 416-7473-8472

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