RICHMOND, B.C. (Canadian OH&S News)
The workplace health and safety stewards in British Columbia have revealed the province’s worst safety code offenders of 2012 — ramping up hundreds of penalties and millions of dollars in fines.
On Feb. 25, provincial occupational health and safety regulating body WorkSafeBC released their yearly penalty report, which catalogs the province’s top violators of the Workers Compensation Act and the occupational health and safety regulations in an effort to promote openness and transparency and highlight the importance of health and safety.
“To target industries and employers that present the greatest risk to worker health and safety, we have a high-risk strategy. It is based on the number of serious injuries, fatalities and high-claim costs in industry sectors and subsectors,” Megan Johnston, communications officer at WorkSafeBC, said in an email. “WorkSafeBC applies penalties where there has been a serious and/or repeated violation of occupational health and safety laws and regulations; where a sanction is required to motivate the specific employer to comply with the law; and where the sanction can act as a deterrent for others.”
According to the 2012 penalty report, the total number of penalties added up to 260 against 225 employers. Of those infractions, six penalties involved fatalities. The report went on to say that the worst industries included steep slope roofing with 83 penalties, with framing work and contracting, construction and renovation work following behind with 35 and 25 penalties, respectively.
It was employers from the construction sector who accounted for almost 85 per cent of infractions. That was mostly due in part to inadequate use of fall protection, at 59 per cent, and the exposure of workers to asbestos, which sits at 14 per cent.
As well, to reflect the current standard of occupational health and safety, each year the maximum penalty amount that can possibly be applied under the Workers Compensation Act is adjusted. According to the 2012 report, the maximum penalty permissible was adjusted at $596,435.35.
Almost $3 million in fines handed out in 2012
In total, that amounted to just under $3 million in fines, with the highest penalty levied clocking in at $125, 277, imposed against Francesco Aquilini & Roberto Aquilini & Elisa Aquilini, et. al.
“The firm failed to maintain in safe operating condition the farm vehicle it used to transport workers,” the report read. “This put the safety of the firm’s workers and others at risk. It was also a repeated violation of the maintenance requirements for vehicles used to transport workers.” In that case, the company has yet to file an appeal.
Penalties are awarded based on a scale — for instance, employers with larger payrolls are assessed higher fines.
“Penalties are imposed to motivate the employers to comply with health and safety laws,” said Al Johnson, WorkSafeBC’s vice-president of prevention services. “While WorkSafeBC works with employers to ensure they understand their legal responsibilities to provide safe and healthy workplaces — our officers will impose a penalty or pursue court processes against employers who repeatedly fail to comply with the law.”
None of the top employers were available for comment as of press time.