With the 2014 introduction of The Saskatchewan Employment Act, and the repeal of The Occupational Health and Safety Act, fines for workplace fatalities in Saskatchewan rose to a maximum of $1.5 million for a corporation, and up to $500,000 for an individual. This follows a trend across the country that has seen an increase in the maximum possible fines for workplace injuries over the past number of years. And courts are imposing significant fines: in January 2018, a Saskatchewan corporate employer was fined a total of $420,000 for a workplace fatality that occurred three years prior.
In all provinces and territories, employers can face charges and resulting fines for workplace near-misses arising from unsafe behaviours, injuries, and fatalities. Regardless of jurisdiction, employers are generally obligated to ensure, insofar as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all of the employer’s workers. This includes properly training employees, supplying personal protective equipment, guarding against hazards and ensuring appropriate safeguards are in place, and maintaining a health and safety committee.
Employers should also ensure they have competent managers and supervisors in place. These individuals often set standards for how hazards are addressed, whether employees are comfortable raising dangers or potential dangers, and leading by example with respect to employing safe work practices. A supervisor who fails to instill a culture of safety can be a liability to their employer in more ways than one.
Employers who neglect or fail to place a priority on safety, with a resulting workplace incident, risk much more than a significant fine. The impact on employee morale, negative press articles, and overall impact on corporate goodwill may take years to recover from. Employers are therefore well-advised to ensure that current policies, procedures and safety practices are sufficient for the type and manner of work performed. Establishing and maintaining a safe workplace, and fostering a culture of workplace safety, will ultimately see the avoidance of workplace incidents, and the resulting significant – and growing – occupational health and safety fines.