Canadian Security Magazine

Who is ultimately responsible for following OH&S legislation?

By Canadian Security   

Features Opinion

On July 8, 2011 Garda Canada Security Corp., pled guilty in a Calgary courtroom to one charge of negligence as it relates to failing to ensure the health and safety of one of its employees. The charge was laid under the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The legislation mandates that the employer must conduct a hazard assessment in the workplace when an employee is working alone. A female guard, working alone on a night shift, was raped November 1, 2006. She had been assigned to a construction site approximately three weeks after being issued her security guard licence.  
Penalties for the conviction included a $5,000 fine, $750 victim fine surcharge, and an additional $87,000 that will go towards the development of a Hazard Assessment Working Alone program at SAIT Polytechnic slated to start in September 2012. It was also reported in the Calgary Herald that this conviction is the first of its kind in Alberta and possibly all of Canada.    

As already indicated, the charge stems from the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Code. By my count, there are possibly five parts from the code relevant here.    

Part 2 deals with ‘Hazard Assessment, Elimination and Control’. The employer is required to conduct an assessment of the site to identify existing and potential hazards, prepare a report including methods to control or eliminate the hazards, educate the employee about the potential hazards as well as steps to manage those hazards including, where appropriate, the use of personal protective equipment which is also covered under its own section, that being Part 18.  

Part 7 ‘Emergency Preparedness and Response’ may also be applicable.The expectation is that the employer must establish a plan where there is an expectation where emergencies require either rescue or evacuation, the affected employees must be consulted and the emergency plan must be current.  

Part 18 ‘Personal Protective Equipment’ includes the employer ensuring the employee has access to PPE, has training on the equipment and is using said equipment.      

Part 27 ‘Violence’ indicates that workplace violence is considered a hazard and as such policies and procedures must be developed for the worker. In turn, employers must ensure that workers are instructed in how to recognize workplace violence, ensure that workers are familiar with policies, procedures and workplace arrangements that minimize or eliminate workplace violence, that there is an appropriate worker response to the issue including communication and finally that there be procedures for reporting, investigating and documenting workplace violence incidents.     

Part 28 ‘Working Alone’, has four parts to it. Briefly, they are: 1. The employer must conduct a hazard assessment of the site, 2. Implement safety measures, 3. Ensure workers have an effective means of communication and 4. Maintain regular contact with the worker commensurate with the nature of the hazard.

The issues of employee safety, employer liability, occupational health and safety, working alone, emergency response planning, workplace violence, and training, and duty of care all came together in this terrible crime.  I have no idea what processes, procedures, training, or assessments were or were not in place in this particular company. However, there are some lessons to be learned for not only the security industry but for most if not all employers not only in Alberta but across Canada as all provinces and territories have similar legislation as does the federal government.  

An operational consideration not yet resolved is who is responsible to ensure the legislation is acted upon? Is this the Security department, Occupational Health and Safety or the Human Resource’s responsibility or all three? Who should take the lead? Are there some elements that fall under the purview of one group and other elements under another? What happens if and when these departments don’t exist within an organization? Who is responsible then? Regardless, someone needs to ‘take the bull by the horns’ and deal with this issue.  

I would suggest that when the organization does have a security organization, that that department’s manager take an active leadership role in establishing and managing such a program. It is natural to do so, given the issues listed, considering that security is already responsible for threat assessments, workplace violence prevention, emergency response planning and employee safety, amongst others.  

The employer is legally, morally and financially responsible to ensure their employees are kept safe from harm.This legislation underscores that employee safety is a serious issue and the various levels of government will hold the employer accountable.  It also recognizes that the business of security has matured and security practitioners from the front line security guard through to the senior most security manager needs to get with the times. This means that hazards are identified, that policies and procedures are in place, all staff must be familiar with their responsibilities and rights, that everyone is trained, and that personal protective equipment is available and in use.

According to the Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada, there are approximately 300,000 employees who are currently injured or killed in Canada every year.

Will this case guarantee that all employees will be protected forever and that no one is going to get hurt? Of course it doesn’t. However, by following this legislation, who knows how much we would be able to reduce the number of incidents. I would suggest that it is certainly worth finding out.

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