Workplace injuries are a major concern, especially in high risk environments such as construction sites. Workplace injuries are avoidable and that is why Saskatchewan’s Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) legislation imposes very stringent obligations on a number of individuals in the workplace, including:
- Self-employed persons;
- Contractors; and
- Prime Contractors.
Employers and owners have the most ability to control conditions of work and how it is completed. Thus, it is an absolute requirement that any fulsome and proper safety program have the involvement of top management within a corporation.
In the event of a workplace incident, legislation places an onus on the corporation to establish it was not reasonably practicable to do more to fulfill any duty or requirement to prevent the injury. Further, the corporation must establish occupational and safety training provided to its employees meets the requirements of the OH&S legislation. Directors and officers of a corporation should have a significant interest in ensuring compliance with the legislation. The penalty for failing to do so can be considerable: a fine, imprisonment, or both. The maximum fine for a corporation convicted of a serious injury or fatality is $1,500,000.00.
In recent years, there appears to be greater enforcement of OH&S legislation and more accountability required. As a result, the scope of directors’ and officers’ roles in preventing accidents is growing. Directors and officers must use their authority to establish and ensure appropriate policies are in place to protect workers and workplace safety.
Every employer must implement a plan to identify possible workplace hazards and carry out the appropriate corrective action to prevent accidents or injuries arising from those hazards. Written policies, practices and procedures, appropriate training and education as well as vigilant monitoring of the workplace are essential. Written documentation of progressive discipline in relation to breaches of safety rules and requirements must be kept in addition to an appropriate accident investigation reporting system.
Employees should be encouraged to report “near misses” and those near misses ought to be investigated. Information and knowledge gained through these investigations should be incorporated into revised and improved policies, practices and procedures. Further, such a process and the existence of these policies, practices and procedures can be used as evidence of due diligence on behalf of the corporation in the event of a safety incident and resulting prosecution.
In the event of an incident and prosecution, documentation is everything. Directors and officers should ensure proper documentation of the corporation’s efforts regarding safety initiatives, including obtaining regular reports from appropriate employees and keeping fulsome and accurate minutes at board and other meetings.
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