All posts by Jeff Cottrill

Firm convicted after worker’s 2014 falling injury in Calgary

CALGARY, Alta. – Three years after one of its employees was seriously injured by a three-metre fall on the job in Calgary, one of the companies involved in the incident was recently fined $80,000, plus a $12,000 victim fine surcharge, and sentenced to serve two years of corporate probation. An undated announcement on the Alberta Labour website stated that a work crew was assembling a wall on the second floor of a house under construction on May 27, 2014, when a temporary structure supporting the wall gave way, causing one of the workers to fall to the ground floor. On Sept. 5 of this year, 1800375 Alberta Ltd. was convicted of failing to protect workers’ safety, to ensure that workers were using fall protection when required and to have qualified first-aid personnel on the worksite. An additional charge of failing to develop a fall-protection plan was stayed conditionally, and other charges against the company were dropped; additional charges against Tuan Luu and Marciano Contracting were also withdrawn.

Man fined $1,000 for letting himself, others work on roof without fall-arrest gear

YELLOWKNIFE, N.W.T. – A Northwest Territories man has been fined $1,000 after being convicted under the territorial Occupational Health and Safety Regulations for allowing himself, his wife and a friend to work on a roof without fall-protection equipment last year. According to a media release from the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC), Paul Curren and the other two individuals were working on the roof of a home he was building for his family on July 16, 2016; according to the definition under the N.W.T. Safety Act, Curren was acting as an employer and was therefore required to comply with oh&s law. He later pleaded guilty in the Territorial Court of the Northwest Territories in Yellowknife to failing to ensure that employees were using a fall-protection system where they could fall at least three metres; other charges were dropped, and Curren was sentenced on Oct. 11 of this year. “It is important to note that a homeowner who has friends, family members or others performing work in or on the home may be an employer under the Safety Act and is required to ensure safe work and compliance with the legislation,” the WSCC stated in the release.

Advocate calls for better availability for PTSD treatment for Atlantic first responders

A former Nova Scotia MP is calling for better accessibility to treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for police officers, paramedics, correctional officers and other first responders in the eastern provinces, following recent reports that the Halifax Regional Police (HRP) could not cover treatment for at least two officers.

Peter Stoffer, a part-time advocate with Trauma Healing Centers in Dartmouth, N.S. and the NDP MP for the Sackville area from 1997 to 2015, referred to “a bit of a bureaucratic malaise” that had prevented one of the officers from getting treatment in Ontario, as her medical team had advised her, on the HRP’s dime.

“There’s only X number of dollars within the budget, and there are contractual obligations according to their collective agreement. That’s from my understanding,” said Stoffer. “There are always exceptions to collective agreements. There are ways the union and management could sit down together to see what can be done in order to ensure that this woman gets the best help that they can possibly give her.”

He added that a treatment facility for the Atlantic provinces, specifically designed for all first responders and the military, would be a “wonderful” idea.

“It would go a long way to, one, accessing the care, the professional-quality care that people are looking for, without really having to move away from the region,” said Stoffer. “And then it would probably end up saving money, because then, you don’t have to move people to either Ontario or Montreal or where else to get the treatment that they’re looking for.”

An online CBC News report from Oct. 4 sparked brief controversy when it quoted HRP Chief Jean-Michel Blais on the issue. The story appeared to imply that Chief Blais – a champion of mental-health awareness who has talked openly about his personal experiences with PTSD – wanted the onus to be on the officers themselves to get treatment and that PTSD was overshadowing other mental-health illnesses in the department.

While Stoffer said he had been “disappointed” by Chief Blais’ comments in the story, he conceded that Blais had probably been misunderstood.

“The chief had responded in kind to what was happening, and unfortunately, I think the message was lost in translation, as they say,” said Stoffer regarding the CBC story.

The HRP declined to comment on any specific cases, but in an e-mailed reply to COHSN, Chief Blais said that the mental and physical health of employees is a top priority for the force.

“We have done extensive work over the past few years in this area,” said Chief Blais, citing HRP initiatives like the Road to Mental Health Readiness program, the Employee & Families Assistance Program and the establishment of its first wellness-coordinator position.

“All of these steps have brought health and wellness to the forefront, and it includes a range of mental-health issues, not simply PTSD,” he added. “We are also going through independent processes that may help determine the future direction of the level of supports available – and we look forward to the outcomes.

“As public-sector organizations, these discussions are critical to have – as they highlight the importance of openly talking about mental-health issues like PTSD, as well as our broader organizational obligations.”

Stoffer said he believed that the aforementioned officer should get the treatment she needs in Ontario through the HRP’s assistance. “For me, that’s the straightforward solution,” he said.

“The woman served her municipality, she’s a police officer, she’s one of the heroes of our country. We never ask them about dollars and cents when they face a very difficult and dangerous situation. Why, then, should we be questioning the nickels and dimes when they need help?”

Ontario government to fund review on effects of McIntyre Powder

Nearly 40 years after the Ontario mining sector ceased the practice of making workers inhale McIntyre Powder, the provincial government is planning to provide funding for a review of the powder’s long-term effects on miners’ health.

A news bulletin from the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) stated on Oct. 11 that the province will provide a $1 million grant to the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), which is conducting the review. OHCOW will assemble a team of health professionals to research whether past exposure to McIntyre Powder is connected to health issues. A proven connection would allow ill former miners to claim compensation from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

A finely ground dust of aluminum oxide and aluminum, McIntyre Powder was once believed to prevent silicosis. From 1943 to around 1980, 45 Ontario mining companies exposed about 10,000 employees to the substance in a province-wide prevention program, according to information from the MOL. Today, OHCOW has 325 case files from current and former miners who were exposed to the powder, while another 195 have reported health effects to a voluntary registry run by the McIntyre Powder Project.

“In addition to this funding initiative, we have conducted a comprehensive mining safety review,” Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said in a press statement. “Implementation of its recommendations is well underway to further the health and safety of mine workers.

“It is critical that occupational diseases be treated with the same seriousness and importance as physical injuries,” added Flynn.

Marcelle Crouse, the province’s Acting Chief Prevention Officer, said in a statement that the grant would help to expand OHCOW’s capacity to address miners’ occupational illnesses.

“It is essential mine practices be safe and that controls are put in place to prevent dangerous exposure,” said Crouse. “We all have a shared responsibility to ensure workers are protected when they work in Ontario mines.”

McIntyre Powder Project founder Janice Martell thanked Flynn and his staff for working with her organization to research the health effects of the powder.

“This funding is critically important to enable the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers to process the large volume of information gathered from mine workers and their families by the McIntyre Powder Intake Clinics working group,” said Martell in a statement.

Martell founded the McIntyre Powder Project in 2015, after her father, Jim Hobbs, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease following years of exposure to the powder on the job. Hobbs died earlier this year in Elliot Lake, Ont. (COHSN, June 6).

There are currently about 40 underground mines and thousands of surface mines in Ontario, employing about 26,000 workers, according to the MOL.

Author of PTSD study to speak at Toronto mental-health summit

TORONTO, Ont. – The Ontario Labour Minister’s annual PTSD Summit is taking place on Oct. 17 this year at the Chestnut Conference Centre in Toronto, and Dr. Nick Carleton of the University of Regina has been invited to be the keynote speaker. An e-mail from the office of Kevin Flynn stated that the conference will gather together mental-health experts and first responders, including police officers, firefighters and paramedics, to discuss post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how to decrease the risk of it in workplaces. Dr. Carleton recently authored a report on PTSD and other mental-health issues in Canada’s public-safety sector, “Mental Disorder Symptoms among Public Safety Personnel in Canada”, which was published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry in August (COHSN, Sept. 5). The PTSD Summit begins at 8:45 a.m. on the 17th, according to Flynn’s office.

Another Saskatchewan firm fined for lack of protective equipment

REGINA, Sask. – A woodworks company based in Regina has been ordered to pay a $2,800 fine, including $800 in surcharges, after being convicted in Regina Provincial Court of two occupational health and safety violations. According to a news release from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety, an occupational health officer from the Ministry inspected a worksite near Regina on June 2, 2016 and observed employees of NLF Woodworks Inc. working without the required fall-protection equipment or protective headwear. No one was injured, but the employer was charged with contravening sections 91 and 116(2) of the province’s oh&s regulations. NLF pleaded guilty in court on Oct. 4 of this year. Another employer, Kamineski Deptuck Holdings Ltd. in Saskatoon, was fined for similar offences the week before (COHSN, Oct. 10).

TTC employee, 50, dies of injuries eight days after workcar accident

A 50-year-old subway-track maintenance worker with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has died after a workplace accident left him severely injured in the early morning hours of Oct. 1.

Tom Dedes succumbed to his injuries at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre on Oct. 9, more than a week after the incident, according to a TTC news release. Dedes had worked for Toronto’s transit system for 18 years, the release noted.

The incident occurred at about 2 a.m. on the 1st, when Dedes and other TTC employees were moving equipment from a pickup truck onto a workcar at McCowan Yard, a rail yard in the eastern borough of Scarborough. After the workers had finished loading the workcar, a locomotive pulled the vehicle and swung the tail end of it towards Dedes, who was standing between the workcar and the truck.

The force of the workcar pinned Dedes against the truck and caused major internal injuries, the TTC said. He was immediately rushed to the hospital.

“On behalf of the entire TTC family, I send my deepest condolences to Tom’s parents and his partner, Gina, at this very difficult time,” TTC CEO Andy Byford said in a press statement. “Our thoughts are also with Tom’s co-workers as we all come to terms with this tragic and shocking event.”

Brad Ross, the TTC’s executive director of corporate communications, offered his own condolences on Twitter.

“The TTC family is in mourning today,” Ross tweeted after Dedes’ passing.

A press release from Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, one of the unions that represent TTC workers, stated that several union personnel had paid their last respects to Dedes and visited his family at Sunnybrook. These members included Local 113 president Frank Grimaldi, secretary-treasurer Kevin Morton and health and safety representative Andrew Falotico.

“Our 11,000 members are in mourning today with the tragic death of Tom Dedes,” said Grimaldi in a media statement.

“Across the city, our members are thinking of his family and friends, including his parents and partner, Gina. Our thoughts are also with Tom’s track-crew sisters and brothers at the TTC’s Greenwood Yard and McCowan Yard, who are dealing with the loss of a great man who left us too soon,” he added.

“While our thoughts are first with his family, our union is strongly committed to the health and safety of our members. The Ontario Ministry of Labour will conduct an investigation, and our union will do whatever we can to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.”

The TTC stated in its release that it had notified the Ministry immediately after the incident and was cooperating fully with the investigation. An internal TTC probe is ongoing as well.

On Oct. 10, Toronto Mayor John Tory ordered all official flags at the City Hall and other civic centres to be lowered to half-mast out of respect for Dedes, according to Tory’s Twitter account.

The TTC has been providing grief counsellors for Dedes’ co-workers and is consulting with his family about special arrangements for his funeral.

Construction company fined $115,000 after worker’s shock

NAPANEE, Ont. – Lafarge Canada Inc., a supplier of construction materials based in Mississauga, Ont., has been fined $115,000 for its role in a contract worker’s shock injury on March 2, 2016. A court bulletin from the Ontario Ministry of Labour stated that a worker had been cleaning electrostatic precipitators at the corporation’s plant in Bath that day, but the power supply for one of the precipitators had not been de-energized or locked out. The worker opened an access panel and received an electrical shock of about 47,500 volts, which required treatment at a hospital. In the Ontario Court of Justice in Napanee, Lafarge later pleaded guilty to violating section 25(1)(c) of the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, which requires an employer to ensure that the power supply to an electrical installation, equipment or conductor is disconnected, locked out of service and tagged before any work is done on or near live exposed parts. Justice of the Peace Donna I. Doelman imposed the fine on Oct. 12 of this year.

Flynn Canada faces three charges for accident at community centre

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – A worker’s falling injuries at a St. John’s community centre two years ago have led to occupational health and safety charges against Flynn Canada Limited, a nationwide trade contractor specializing in roofing. According to an Oct. 12 news release from Service N.L., the provincial government’s labour department, the incident occurred in Sept. 2015 during construction of the Paul Reynolds Community Centre, where a Flynn employee fell through the opening on the roof of the unfinished building and sustained injuries. Following an investigation by Service N.L.’s occupational health and safety division, Flynn Canada was charged with failing to provide a safe workplace, install temporary flooring in the roof’s work area and familiarize employees with hazards. The employer made its first court appearance on the charges on Oct. 10 at the St. John’s Provincial Court, and the next appearance is scheduled for Nov. 22, the release stated.

Roofing company fined in July for falling death of young employee

WINDSOR, Ont. – An Oct. 6 court bulletin from the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) announced that a Windsor roofing firm had been convicted for its involvement in the falling death of a young worker in late 2015. On Dec. 11 of that year, a group of Dayus Roofing Inc. employees were replacing shingles on a local house roof, and one of the workers was tasked with dumping older shingles into a dumpster on the ground. The worker was wearing fall-protection equipment, but detached the lanyard from the safety line while crossing the roof to dispose of shingles; the worker then lost footing and fell to the ground, sustaining serious injuries. After six months in the hospital in a coma, the worker died, the MOL stated. Dayus Roofing later pleaded guilty in the Ontario Court of Justice in Windsor to failing to use a guardrail system, or a more effective fall-arrest system like a travel-restraint system, to protect its employees. Justice of the Peace Susan E. Whelan convicted the firm on July 17 of this year and sentenced it to pay a fine of $90,000, plus the standard 25 per cent victim fine surcharge. “New and young workers in Ontario are more likely to be injured during the first few months on the job than other workers,” the MOL stated in the bulletin, “and are three times more likely to be injured during their first month on the job than at any other time.”