On June 10, 2009, the National Assembly adopted Bill 35, An Act to modify the occupational health and safety regime, particularly in order to increase certain death benefits and fines and simplify the payment of the employer assessment.
In addition to certain aspects concerning the payment of employer assessments to the CSST, and the increase of death benefits, this law drastically modifies the fines provided for under Sections 236 and 237 of the Act respecting Occupational Health and Safety.
In the case of a natural person, maximum fines under Section 236 (contravention of the Act or regulations) increases from $500 to $1,500 for a first offence, to $3,000 for a second offence, and up to $6,000 for a third or subsequent offence.
For legal persons, the maximum fine under the same section increases from $1,000 to $3,000 for the first offence, to $6,000 for the first subsequent offence and to $12,000 for any additional subsequent offence.
In the case of an accusation under Section 237 (directly and seriously compromising the health, safety and physical well-being of a worker), the fines for a physical person range from $1,500 to $3,000 for the first offence (formerly $500 to $1,000). The first subsequent infraction could lead to liability to pay a minimum fine of $3,000 up to a maximum of $6,000. A third or subsequent offence could lead to a fine of at least $6,000 up to a maximum of $12,000.
For legal persons, a first offence could lead to a fine of at least $15,000 up to a maximum of $60,000, a second offence could lead to a minimum fine of $30,000, up to $150,000, and a fine of at least $60,000 up to a maximum of $300,000 for a third or subsequent offence.
Though these fines remain lower that those imposed for example in Ontario, Quebec employers now have greater reasons to integrate rules regarding the prevention of industrial accidents, and principles of due diligence, into their routine management policies. It is worth noting that these legislative amendments add to those recently made to the Criminal Code with respect to criminal negligence in the event of an industrial accident.