A recent conviction under the Occupational Health and Safety Act ("OHSA") in Ontario confirms the far reaching powers of the Ministry of Labour with regards to laying charges for violations of the OHSA and prescribed Regulations.

Generally the thought of employers is that charges may be laid in the event of a critical injury or fatality at the workplace. Actually, any Order issued by an Inspector is a contravention of the OHSA and charges may be laid for any contravention. Charges may also be laid for prior convictions even though an accident or injury has not occurred.

On May 18, 2017, an employer of a roofing company was sentenced to one day imprisonment and a fine of $10,000 for ignoring prescribed regulations. The employer failed to ensure that a worker was adequately protected from falling. At the time of inspection, a worker was observed working at a height over 3 metres and was not protected by fall protection. The employer had previously been charged in 2013 for a fine of $2,000 and in 2015 for a fine of $4,000 for the same offence; no one had fallen or was injured in either case. The amount of the fine including imprisonment was due to these prior convictions and continued failure to abide by the law.

Under the OHSA an individual may be charged a maximum of $25,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment or a combination of both. Fines are generally based on the several factors such as size of an organization, prior convictions, ability to pay, severity of the incident, remorse of the situation.

There does not need to be a critical injury or fatality to prompt charges by the Ministry of Labour. Disregard for the law, without injury or incident, can result in charges which may lead to not only fines, but imprisonment.