Sections 179 and following of An Act respecting occupational health and safety1 (hereinafter the "O.H.S.A.") determine the powers of inspectors from the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (hereinafter the "C.S.S.T."). In addition to issuing remedial orders2, a C.S.S.T. inspector "may order the suspension of work or the complete or partial shutdown of a workplace and, if necessary, affix seals, if he considers a worker’s health, safety or physical well-being to be endangered"3.
In a November 29, 2007 decision, the Commission des lésions professionnelles recalled the criteria needed for a decision to affix a seal4. Accordingly, there must be a real danger to health, safety or physical well-being and the inspector must substantiate his decision and indicate the steps to be taken to eliminate the danger.
In the case under study, following an industrial accident on a machine, the inspector had sealed it, plus six other similar machines. The tribunal found the affixing of seals to be an exceptional measure which must apply in exceptional circumstances, especially in view of the major financial impact of such a measure. In this case, the inspector had to assess the real danger and consider in particular that no industrial accident had occurred on those machines for four and a half years.
The tribunal recalled that the O.H.S.A. provides other methods which are just as effective as the affixation of seals for eliminating a hazard identified by the inspector, such as the remedial notice procedure, which can be very compelling. The notice may give the employer a very short period of time to make the necessary changes.
The tribunal concluded that the affixation of seals was only warranted on the machine where the industrial accident had occurred, since the real danger was only related to that machine.