An employer’s safety due diligence can be defeated every time by one thing: a worker who won’t follow instructions or use proper equipment. But workers have legal duties too.

Very often an employer or constructor will be subject to orders or prosecution when an employee fails to observe safe practice.  That’s because the employer or constructor is ultimately responsible for what happens at the workplace.  However, the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and laws like it in other provinces also impose legal duties on employees.  If individuals breach the law, they can be charged as well as, or instead of, the employer or constructor.

An example is a case publicized this month by the Ontario Ministry of Labour.  On November 14, 2013, a Toronto hoist worker Christopher Schwaemmie was fined for a violation of the OHSA.  The customary rule is that any person exposed to a possible fall of more than 3 meters must be tied-off.  Mr. Schwaemmie worked at a hoist tower approximately 50 feet from the ground.  He leapt from a hoist tower to a nearby roof.  The jump was witnessed by a Ministry of Labour inspector, who noted that while the worker was wearing a fall protection harness and lanyard, the lanyard wasn’t tied to anything. 

The worker pleaded guilty to failing to be adequately protected by a method of fall protection while exposed to a fall of more than three meters and was fined $1500, plus victim surcharge.

Employers and constructors may want to remind their employees that safe practice not only keeps people alive, it may also keep them out of court.

For more information, see the Ministry of Labour Court Bulletin:  Worker Fined $1,500 for Not Using Fall Protection