Recently the province of Alberta introduced financial penalties to those caught breaking workplace safety rules; these fines of up to $500 can be given to both employers and workers.
Workplace Safety Fines
Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) has given out fines for years to Companies; but these new fines can be given to individual workers… up to $500 (even more for repeat offenders)! After an incident occurs Alberta OHS has set out ‘administrative penalties’ to companies based on a thorough investigation. These penalties are often determined through the court system. This new process of on the spot ticketing (which began on Jan 1, 2014) gives OHS officers a method of impacting workers and employers that is less harsh than a stop work order or court proceedings. Administrative Penalties and Stop Work Orders will still be issued, as required. Individuals who are ticketed can go to court and fight the fine in the same manner as a traffic ticket.
All provinces in Canada have a financial penalty that can be charged to Companies for non-compliance with Safety. Some other provinces (Ontario, Saskatchewan, Quebec, and Nova Scotia) have provisions to fine workers as well or are in the process of putting these in place. Companies always get the larger fines, as compared to the workers. In some provincial jurisdictions OHS offers guidance and training to workers and employers breaking the rules.
One issue when it comes to fining workers or companies is the collections of money owed. The provinces enacting these fines will enforce payment similarly to that of a speeding ticket and may result in garnish of wages or inability to renew your drivers’ licence. Since the stakes are so high, workers will try to push all blame for the incident or lack of compliance onto the employer causing tension in the workplace. Since the money for the fines will go into the general budget for the province it is unlikely it will in turn create safer workplaces. The monies collected as a direct result of an unsafe act or unsafe condition should be put into a fund that allows companies’ access to workplace safety professionals and training.
Companies that go bankrupt due to the fines and administrative penalties applied to them are in turn removing an unsafe company from industry, consequently improving overall safety. The premise is that one fine will not cause a company significant hardship, multiple fines caused by non-compliance or repeat offenders will have a greater impact. Workers will also be affected by the fines in a way that will likely change their behavior.
Impact of New Safety Rules
These new rules will have no impact on workers and companies who are safety conscience and follow the rules. The impact will only be felt by those who break these rules, and will be magnified by repeat offenders. It is recommended to discuss these new fines with all workers; ignorance of the law is no defence.
Workforce Compliance Safety Ltd. is a Canadian health & safety company. Our specialists offer experience and knowledge of Occupational Health & Safety Legislation throughout Canada.