All posts by Jason Contant

Officer charged with dangerous driving

EDMONTON, Alta. — An Edmonton Police Service (EPS) officer was charged on Feb. 12 in relation to a collision that took place last October. Const. Ashlee Shepansky, a six-year member of the EPS, was charged with dangerous driving and is currently assigned to administrative duties, the police force said in a press release. On Oct. 8, Const. Shepansky was on duty and responding to a high priority call when the collision occurred. Charges were laid after an in-depth investigation by the EPS’ Professional Standards Branch.

Sun-Brite Foods fined $70,000

RUTHVEN, Ont. — Sun-Brite Foods Inc. was fined $70,000 on Feb. 9, after a seasonal farm worker was critically injured in an industrial accident. On Sept. 5, 2013, the Mexican seasonal worker was cleaning the “peeler room” of the company’s food processing facility near Ruthven, the Ministry of Labour (MOL) said in a media statement. The room contained tomato peeling machines, each with a waste chute connected to a trough, with a power screw auger pushing waste material through the trough. On the day of the accident, the worker was cleaning the area around one of the machines, but one foot slipped into the trough and became caught in the auger. The worker required partial amputation on the foot, the MOL said. A ministry investigation found that the peeler machine in question had been installed just two weeks prior to the accident. While steel mesh guards were affixed over the waste troughs of the three other machines, no guard had yet been installed on the newest machine, leaving the auger fully exposed.

Injury spurs $50,000 penalty

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Anixter Canada Inc., a wire, cable, communications and security product company, was fined $50,000 on Feb. 10 after a worker was injured in 2013. On July 24 of that year, an employee of Anixter was using an order picker forklift to move empty pallets at the company’s warehouse, the Ministry of Labour (MOL) said in a release. The employee was operating the forklift in reverse down an aisle, with the pallets stacked loosely on the forks, when a pallet contacted a nearby rack. The rack was pushed into the operator’s compartment, pinning him and injuring his leg. Anixter pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that materials were carried or moved in a way that did not endanger the safety of a worker.

Employers can now apply for workers’ comp coverage online

HALIFAX, N.S. — Employers in Nova Scotia seeking workplace insurance coverage can now apply online through the Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia’s (WCB) website at Through the online registration form, employers can apply for insurance quickly and easily, whereas previously, employers had to complete a print form and mail or fax the registration, the WCB said in a statement. Employers will now also receive an immediate confirmation email, including useful links and information about health and safety. In-person and mail/fax options are still available for employers who cannot register online.

Halifax company charged after workplace fatality

HALIFAX, N.S. — Occupational health and safety officers with Nova Scotia’s Department of Labour and Advanced Education charged a Halifax company on Feb. 18, in connection with the death of a 21-year-old worker. On Nov. 7, 2013, Alan Fraser was cleaning up on the sixth floor of a Clayton Park building under construction, when he fell from the edge, the department said in a press release. Parkland Construction was charged in relation to the lack of: fall protection for an employee who was working at an elevation of three metres or more; a safe work plan; fall protection training; and a chute or other safe method used to lower rubbish or debris. The press release said that a company supervisor had also been charged with failing to take every precaution to protect an employee’s health and the lack of fall protection at a height of three metres or more.

MSA launches GasGard 100

MSA has launched its GasGard 100 gas detection Control System, a scalable, high performance data acquisition/data logging platform with a resistive touchscreen display.

The user-friendly, fanless design of the display makes it reliable, and the system comes with an LED indicator on the front panel for power, storage access and LAN active status, MSA said in a product announcement. Its open Ethernet connectivity, with web-based configuration and data monitoring functions, also allows GasGard 100 controllers to handle a wide range of monitoring and historical logging functions.

For more information, visit

Ontario to probe changing nature of the modern workplace

Ontario is set to launch consultations on the changing nature of the modern workplace.

The public consultations, which will be launched in the spring, will focus on how the Labour Relations Act and the Employment Standards Act could be amended to protect workers more effectively, while supporting businesses in the changing economy, the provincial Ministry of Labour (MOL) said in a statement.

Workplace trends to be examined include:

  • The increase in non-standard working relationships, such as temporary jobs, part-time work and self-employment;
  • The rising prominence of the service sector;
  • Globalization and trade liberalization;
  • Accelerating technological change; and
  • Greater workplace diversity.

“We are currently developing the plan for the research and analysis that will be undertaken during these consultations,” said MOL spokesperson William Lin, adding that the process and schedule of meetings, including regional public meetings, would be announced in the near future. “Once finalized, details around the consultation process will be posted on the Ministry of Labour website,” Lin said.

The consultations will be led by C. Michael Mitchell, formerly of Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP, and John Murray, a former justice of the Superior Court of Justice and prominent management labour lawyer. Mitchell has practised law for more than 37 years and recently opened a new practice as a full-time arbitrator and mediator, the MOL said in a backgrounder. Murray became a full-time mediator and arbitrator in January and has regularly provided legal advice to major private and public sector corporations, along with public sector institutions such as universities and hospitals.

Mitchell and Murray will lead and coordinate the public consultations and provide the Minister of Labour with a final written report with recommendations.

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) welcomed the announcement. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to modernize Ontario’s outdated labour laws,” said OFL president Sid Ryan in a media release. “Over the past 20 years, there has been a massive rise in precarious employment in Ontario, as good paying manufacturing jobs have been replaced by low-paying and part-time jobs in expanding retail and service sectors. It is time for employment and labour laws to be updated to provide protection for an increasingly vulnerable workforce.”

Ryan said that he was looking forward to the upcoming public hearings and that the OFL “will be full participants in what we believe will be a vigorous and healthy discussion about the future of the province’s five million workers.”

Bill to help protect transit operators comes into force

Unions across Canada are applauding the adoption of a bill that may lead to harsher sentences for assaults on public transit operators.

Bill S-221, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (assaults against public transit operators), passed third reading and was awaiting royal assent as of Feb. 16. The bill amended Section 269 of the Criminal Code to require judges to consider a transit driver’s occupation as an “aggravating circumstance” in sentencing. It applies to drivers of buses, paratransit vehicles, taxis, subways, streetcars and ferries.

The bill was introduced by Conservative Senator Bob Runciman, who was spurred to take action regarding violence against transit operators following an incident in 2013. A man assaulted an OC Transpo bus driver in Ottawa, then dragged him out onto the street and continued beating him (COHSN, Sept. 29, 2014). Although the driver did not return to work for months because of his injuries, the perpetrator escaped jail time and received a suspended sentence, despite having 17 previous assault convictions.

Unifor applauded the adoption of the bill, noting in a statement that the union had been working with all parties in the Senate and House of Commons to gain amendments to the Criminal Code to include options for stiffer penalties to those convicted of assaulting drivers. “Everybody should be safe at work,” said Jerry Dais, national president of Unifor, in the statement. “Bus and taxi drivers provide a very valuable public service, and they shouldn’t have to face violence in their workplace.”

Nathan Woods, a transit operator in Vancouver and president of Local 111 of Unifor, said that workplace safety is a non-partisan issue and that he was thrilled that every party could get behind Bill S-221. “Many operators have suffered horrible assaults,” he said. “We can do more to improve their safety, but this is an important step.” Woods testified to a Senate committee in 2014 that approximately 2,000 bus driver assaults are reported each year in Canada.

Unifor said in the statement that changes to the Criminal Code alone would not eliminate workplace assaults. Local 111 is working with the employer in Metro Vancouver to implement a trial period with a safety shield between drivers and passengers, combined with a violent incident prevention program to identify potentially volatile situations and strategies to defuse them.

Bob Kinnear, president of Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents over 10,000 transit workers in Toronto and York Region, was also pleased that Parliament had passed the bill unanimously. Kinnear, who said that there are hundreds of assaults every year against Toronto Transit Commission workers, noted that it took the union more than 10 years of efforts to get the bill passed.

Operators have been spat on, threatened and have had coffee and other liquids thrown at them. “Our members have been punched, slapped, kicked, strangled, stabbed and shot at, usually over a fare dispute,” Kinnear said. “We have had cases where bus drivers have been dragged out of their seats and viciously beaten, just for doing their jobs. Several of our members have been hurt so badly that they cannot return to work and are forced to live the rest of their lives on inadequate workers’ compensation payments. If there’s such a thing as injustice, this is it.”

Kinnear added that while the union welcomed the legislation, he did not understand why employees who do not operate vehicles, such as station collectors, were not covered. “Collectors have been threatened with guns and even shot and wounded,” he said. “We put ourselves out there to perform a public service, and we deserve to be better protected on the job.”

Privacy commissioners urge caution around body-worn cameras

As police officers in jurisdictions such as Toronto, Calgary and Hamilton, Ont. consider the merits of body-worn cameras (BWCs), privacy and personal information ombudsmen and commissioners are issuing guidelines on dealing with privacy concerns associated with the cameras.

On Feb. 18, the federal privacy commissioner and personal information protection ombudsmen and commissioners in each province and territory launched a guidance document to help law enforcement agencies develop policies and procedures governing the use of BWCs. The resource calls on law enforcement authorities (LEAs) to evaluate whether the expected benefits outweigh the effect on privacy and personal information before introducing a program on BWCs, recording devices designed to be worn on an officer’s uniform, glasses or helmet.

“Apart from requirements under personal information protection statutes, the use of BWCs can implicate other obligations of which LEAs need to be aware,” said the document, posted on the website of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. “For example, BWCs can record video images, sound and conversations with a high degree of clarity. Microphones may be sensitive enough to capture not only the sounds associated with the situation being targeted, but also ambient sound that could include the conversations of bystanders.”

The guideline recommends the completion of a privacy impact assessment, which could include such items as secondary uses of BWCs. “If use of recordings is contemplated for any purposes that are supplementary to the main BWC program purposes, for example, officer training, research or performance evaluation, these secondary purposes need to be reviewed to ensure compliance with applicable legislation, and employees need to be well-informed of them,” the guideline said. “In addition, criteria should be established to limit the privacy impact, such as blurring of faces and any identifying marks, and excluding recordings with sensitive content.”

The document also highlights other issues, such as continuous versus intermittent recordings; proper safeguards, retention, destruction and storage of BWC recordings; the use of video analytics; and responses to breaches.

Jean Chartier, president of Quebec’s privacy commission, the Commission d’accès à l’information du Quebec, said that while his organization had not yet received any information regarding the use of BWCs by police in the province, police forces in Quebec may decide to adopt them in the future. As such, Chartier recommended the development of measures to ensure the confidentiality of personal information collected, as well as those to eliminate or mitigate the effect on citizens.

Anne Bertrand, the Access to Information and Privacy Commissioner of New Brunswick, said in a media statement that she believed that “body-worn cameras used for police enforcement will quickly become the norm in Canada, as it has been shown that there are many positives for both public safety and police conduct with the use of such devices. For this reason,” she added, “it is incumbent upon my colleagues and I to offer good guidance to police forces on the best practices when equipped with these recording devices: remain mindful of citizens’ privacy while carrying out your duties.”

Guidance for the use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement authorities is available online at

B.C. introduces oh&s regulatory amendments

The government of British Columbia has amended the Workers Compensation Act to strengthen WorkSafeBC’s ability to promote and enforce occupational health and safety compliance in provincial workplaces.

Introduced on Feb. 11, the amendments change policy in four areas: providing a range of new safety enforcement tools; shortening the process for finalizing financial penalties, to improve their effectiveness as an enforcement tool; ensuring timely employer investigations of workplace incidents and reports; and enhancing workplace safety expertise on the WorkSafeBC board of directors, by adding two new members who have backgrounds in oh&s, law or law enforcement.

“These changes complement other operational improvements taking place at WorkSafeBC to implement a world-class inspection and investigation regime, in the wake of the tragic sawmill incidents that occurred in 2012 in Burns Lake and Prince George,” B.C.’s Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training said in a press release.

In particular, the new safety enforcement tools include a new compliance agreement for employers who voluntarily agree to improve the safety of their workplaces in response to inspections by WorkSafeBC, as well as “on-the-spot” fines (citations) for less serious contraventions, said a backgrounder from the ministry. The tools also include WorkSafeBC’s ability to stop work at sites where unsafe conditions present a high risk to workers, as well as expanding courts’ authority to bar the worst offenders from operating in an industry.

The backgrounder said that the changes would also require employers to “conduct a preliminary investigation within 48 hours of a significant incident and to take necessary actions to prevent a similar incident from occurring while a full investigation is being conducted.” The employer’s full investigation must also be completed within 30 days, unless WorkSafeBC grants an extension for exceptional or complex cases.

Irene Lanzinger, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour (BCFL), said that she believed that increased enforcement and prosecution of negligent employers was key. She also said that while the reforms were a step in the right direction, more could be done to make the amendments stronger. For example, Lanzinger noted that the BCFL has been calling for a dedicated Crown prosecutor and a Crown charge assessment policy specific to workplace fatalities. In addition, the federation wants education for prosecutors, police services and workers’ compensation board investigative officers around criminal negligence from an oh&s perspective.

More information is available at