As it turns out, the Ontario Court of Justice is as friendly to liars as the Ministry of Labour is to employers who don’t comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”). That is, not friendly at all. While most employers are mindful of the hefty fines they can receive for OHSA violations, recent court decisions remind us that jail time is also a real possible consequence.
Just last month, the owner of A.B. Clothier Roofing, a roofing company based in Dorchester, Ontario, was sentenced to three days in jail for attempting to deceive a Ministry of Labour safety inspector following a workplace accident. The owner had been working alongside two employees atop a home in Bayfield, Ontario without proper fall protection equipment when one employee fell 18 feet from the roof. In an attempt to hide his failure to meet OHSA requirements, Clothier directed the second employee to go up on the roof and set up lifelines and fall protection equipment before a Ministry of Labour inspector arrived. The owner ultimately pled guilty to two OHSA offences: attempting to obstruct and interfere with an inspector and failing to ensure that workers were properly protected from falls. The Court jailed the owner for three days on the obstruction/interference charge and imposed a $5,000 fine on the fall protection charge.
Earlier this year, Daniel Lane, a contractor operating a business called HomeSeal in Bolton, Ontario, received a 30-day jail sentence as a result of conviction on OHSA charges. He told a homeowner he was removing asbestos in accordance with Ministry of Labour regulations and that he was certified to perform this work, neither of which were true. In fact, the asbestos removal failed to comply with several required health and safety measures, including: not separating or sealing off the work area from the rest of the home; not having a decontamination facility in place; not identifying the work area with warning signs; not requiring workers to wear or supply workers with protective clothing; and using inadequate respirators. The Court convicted Lane on nine counts under the OHSA, imposed a 30-day jail sentence and $45,000 in fines.
The Ministry of Labour’s press releases on both cases can be accessed through the links above.
The moral of the story is simple, but in light of these decisions perhaps bears repeating: conduct your business honestly, take your obligations under the OHSA seriously, and please, please don’t try to deceive the Ministry of Labour, your clients or your customers.
As always, if you need advice or assistance navigating a Ministry of Labour investigation or defending charges under the OHSA, we’re here to help.