WorkSafeBC Penalty of Over $600,000

By Mark Grabas
Categories: Blog, Employment Law

In December 2019, the Metro Vancouver Regional District received an administrative penalty of $637,415.60 for committing high risk safety violations.  The administrative penalty stemmed from work done inside a sewer line defined as a confined space.  Specifically, WorkSafeBC determined that work was done by the employer without:

  • Obtaining the required WorkSafeBC approval of proposed alternative measures of control or isolation of adjacent piping;
  • Following safe work procedures for confined space entry;
  • Adequately controlling the risks associated with harmful substances such as hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S);
  • Conducting a hazard assessment;
  • Developing written procedures to eliminate or minimize the hazards of working in confined spaces;
  • Developing, reviewing, and updating a confined space entry permit that identified the confined space and work activities, required precautions, and time of expiration;
  • Maintaining pre-entry test records showing the date and time of the test and the conditions found;
  • Controlling harmful substances in piping adjacent to the confined space;
  • Ensuring workers were trained in the hazards of the confined space, and that they were informed of and instructed in alternative measures to control harmful substances;
  • Adequately training supervisors for confined space entry work; and
  • Ensuring the health and safety of its workers.

When it comes to health and safety administrative penalties, WorkSafeBC may impose penalties on employers when they do one or more of the following:

  • Fail to take sufficient precautions to prevent work-related injury or illness;
  • Do not comply with the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulation, Part 3 of the Workers Compensation Act, or an applicable order; or
  • Have an unsafe workplace or working conditions.

What can an administrative penalty cost you?  The amount of a penalty is based on the nature of the violation, a company’s history of violations, and the size of the company’s payroll.  High risk violations and repeat offenders may be subject to higher administrative penalties.  Penalties can range from a minimum of $1,250 to a maximum of $674,445.93.

In the Okanagan, the most common administrative penalties received by employers are for failure to use fall protection.  These penalties have ranged from $2,500 to well over $20,000.

In most cases, employers have the right to appeal orders and administrative penalty decisions. Requests for a review of health and safety orders and penalty decisions must be submitted within 45 days of the decision date.

The Workers’ Compensation Act specifically states that a penalty cannot be imposed if the employer has exercised due diligence.  Due diligence requires taking all reasonable steps to protect workers from harm. “All reasonable steps” is determined based on the level of judgment and care that a person would reasonably be expected to take under the circumstances.

Due diligence requires that an employer:

  • Identify all workplace hazards;
  • Implement all necessary preventive measures and training;
  • Communicate appropriately to all necessary personnel; and
  • Be able to demonstrate how you are implementing your written health and safety policies, procedures, and practices and to provide written proof of enforcement when necessary.

Check out our other articles with respect to Employment, Labour and WorkSafeBC.