Friday, February 26, 2016

Who is Responsible for Safety?

We talked in our last blog about the many different elements of a comprehensive due diligence program. Workplace safety and health legislation in Canada is geared towards the employer having the majority of the responsibility in providing and maintaining a safe work environment. But workers have responsibilities as well, including taking reasonable care to protect their safety and using devices and PPE provided to them for their protection. The best safety and health programs have employers and employees working together to ensure a safe working environment for everyone.

So where is the line between employer responsibility and worker responsibility? This topic of discussion can get very murky. Every situation is unique and everyone can have differing opinions on who should or should not have done something.

The Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health Act states that it is a worker’s responsibility to use the safety devices provided to them. But what if they were never properly trained on how to use that device? What if they were provided the device a year ago, but they never used it and were never disciplined for not using it? The employer has given the impression that it is not important nor necessary.

How about a situation where a six foot high fence is installed across the rear of a machine but the company leaves a ladder stored directly beside the fence? They are providing an easy means of defeating that safeguard. What if the employee climbs the fence with no aid or intervention? What other controls were put in place to deter the employee from doing this?

What if an employer installs a chain across the rear of a machine with a sign that says “do not enter”? Is this sufficient? Have we done all that we can do to prevent a worker from walking back there? Is that an adequate control for the level of risk? What if it is required to go back there to change tooling, have we provided an alternative, safe way of performing that necessary task or are we setting up our workers to have to defeat safety controls?

There are so many different scenarios and differing opinions. The important thing to keep in mind is that as an employer it is your responsibility to not only provide a safe workplace and to ensure that your employees understand how to work safely, but also to inspect and enforce on a regular basis. At the end of the day, if a worker is injured it will be Workplace Safety and Health or the law courts deciding who did not fulfil their due diligence requirements.

Posted by Kristin Petaski at 10:45 AM

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