A supervisor employed by J.R Contracting Services Inc. is paying a heavy price after being convicted for failing to ensure workers used fall protection, contrary to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”) and its regulations. On March 6, 2014, the Company was fined $75,000 for its violations and a Company representative was fined $2,000 for obstructing a Ministry of Labour investigation. The Company supervisor, however, was given a 45 day jail sentence.

In its decision of April 18, 2013, the Court found that the Company had sent workers to remove shingles from a residential roof. While doing so, one worker slipped off the roof, falling onto the walkway below. He was not wearing any protective devices and it was found that there was no fall protection equipment at the accident scene. The worker suffered paralysis below the waist.

The Court further found that a company employee responsible for directing workers to the job sites, paying the workers, and providing them with cash advances when needed, was a “supervisor” with authority over the workers. She would also authorize workers to proceed on particular projects, thereby demonstrating “hands on authority.” The Court concluded that the supervisor failed to ensure workers used the protective devices, measures and procedures as required by the OHSA.

Jail sentences are rare. As a public welfare statute, enforcement of the OHSA has generally focussed on fines as a deterrent to negligent action by employers and supervisors, and courts have often stressed the lesser “stigma” associated with conviction compared to criminal offences. The imposition of a significant jail sentence in this case, however, calls into question whether jail time will no longer be reserved for the most exceptional cases.