Ontario employers are responsible for ensuring their workplace complies with the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations. Aside from the compliance benefits of promoting workplace health and safety, maintaining high standards in accordance with the law can also help improve employee productivity and the company’s business. However, incidents and employee misconduct may still occur despite implementing rigid safety guidelines. Such misconduct may violate the legislative standards, and the employer may be charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. So, what are the consequences of such charges?

Overview of the Occupational Health and Safety Act

In Ontario, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”) and regulations prescribe the legislative standards to maintain satisfactory workplace health and safety throughout the province. The OHSA sets out various workplace policies that employers must create and adhere to in order to mitigate workplace risks and safety hazards. The majority of provincially regulated workers and employers across Ontario are subject to the standards and requirements set out in the OHSA.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development is responsible for the promotion, regulation and compliance enforcement of the OHSA. In order to address complaints and monitor workplace compliance, the Ministry often instructs inspectors to conduct workplace investigations.

To learn more about defending charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, read our recent blog here.

Company and CEO Fined $100,000 for OHSA Violation

Earlier this year, THS Industries Inc., a Kitchener-based steel nail manufacturing company, and the company’s Chief Executive Officer were fined a total of $100,000 due to their failure to guard their nail-maker machines properly.

The Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (the “Ministry”) conducted a workplace investigation in December 2021, pursuant to an “anonymous complaint that workers were bypassing machine guarding devices on nail-maker machines.” The investigation uncovered that several machines had unfixed access gates. This was contrary to section 25 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments, which requires that nip hazards or any part of a machine that can pose a danger to a worker’s safety must have a guard or other device that prevents access to the pinch point. Without these precautions, workers are at risk of accessing moving parts inside of the machines.

Employer and Director Failed to Take Reasonable Care

During the investigation, the Ministry also noted that inspectors saw a machine running with an open lid and that “fixed guards had been removed” from several nail-maker machines.

The Ministry found that both the company, as the employer, and the CEO, as a director of the company, “failed to take all reasonable care to ensure equipment, materials and protective devices… were provided for nail-maker machines, leaving workers at risk of accessing moving parts inside the machine.”

While the Ministry confirmed that no workers were hurt, they emphasized the fact that the machines could have resulted in catastrophic injuries.

Substantial Fines Following Three Sanctions in Six Years

After pleading guilty to several violations at the Ontario Court of Justice, THS Industries Inc. received a fine of $85,000 under section 25(1)(a) of the OHSA, and the company’s CEO was fined $15,000 under section 32(a) of the OHSA. The Court also imposed a mandatory victim fine surcharge of 25% under the Provincial Offences Act, which is credited to a government fund used to assist victims of crime.

Since this was the company’s third conviction in six years, the fines resulting from the OHSA charges were substantial. These fines came after a worker was seriously injured in January 2018 when they became pinned between two machine rollers during operation, resulting in a fine of $50,000 to the company. The company was also convicted when it was discovered that a machine was unguarded in April 2016. Despite the Ministry placing a stop work order on the machine, it was used before the order was lifted, resulting in a $20,000 fine against the company.

Occupational Health and Safety Act Sanctions and Consequences

This matter serves as a reminder to employers throughout the province that not only are charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act serious and can have substantial financial consequences, but that the health and safety of all workers should be paramount.

Ensuring that workplace health and safety policies remain up-to-date and are prepared in accordance with the OHSA can help employers mitigate safety risks and minimize exposure to liability due to OHSA infractions. It is also critical to ensure that employees are aware of and are trained in the company’s workplace rules and procedures.

By working with an experienced lawyer, employers and company directors can better understand their responsibilities and obligations under the OHSA to avoid future incidents or violations. However, if an employer is charged under the OHSA, it is critical to contact an experienced employment lawyer who can guide you through the process and defend such charges.

The Employment Lawyers at Willis Business Law Represent Employers Facing Charges Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act

The trusted employment law team at Willis Business Law, led by J.P. Karam, understands the importance of ensuring that your workplace complies with provincial and federal law. If an employer is subject to a workplace investigation or a charge under the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act, we ensure that our client’s rights are protected while positioning them for the best possible outcome. We help employers assess workplace health and safety and prepare adequate and proactive workplace policies to avoid incidents and future disputes.

Willis Business Law is located in Windsor’s financial district and represents clients throughout Windsor-Essex and the surrounding regions. To speak with a member of our team regarding your questions about OHSA violations, contact us online or call us at 519-945-5470.

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