Town gets good OHS report card But it could use more supervisors...

Town gets good OHS report card But it could use more supervisors to monitor workers


When it comes to the health and safety of workers, the Town of Oliver gets a good grade.
But it could use more supervisors to ensure that regulations are followed, according to health and safety specialist Denis McMullen.
He presented a report to council on OHS rules and the pitfalls that some municipalities and businesses fall prey to.
He noted that changes in health and safety regulations over the years have been quite significant.
McMullen said businesses with 20 or more employees who perform moderate to high-risk work must maintain an OHS program. If they don’t, they could find themselves in serious trouble if someone gets hurt or killed on the job.
McMullen said municipalities have a duty to ensure their employees work in a safe environment with adequate supervision. If something goes wrong, WorkSafe BC will determine if an OHS program is in place and whether it is adequate.
“If you don’t maintain a program and something went wrong (causing injury or death), you could be held accountable,” McMullen said.
He noted the Town of Oliver is not in this position because it has a healthy safety program. However, he did say the Town of inspected recently following an incident during an excavation. There was no fine, but three employees were given disciplinary action for unsafe work. McMullen said some workers know they are doing wrong but are “pressured” to get the job done.
He noted that WorkSafe BC conducts random safety inspections, noting there were 359 penalties issued in 2011. Nearly 103,800 workers were injured in BC last year.
McMullen said supervisors on the job actually have more responsibility than municipalities that hire employees.
“If I were to critique, it would be the shortcomings in the eyes of monitoring workers. Many breaches of regulations result directly from a lack of supervision.”
McMullen said supervisors basically have to have eyes in the back of your head on any jobsite. “If you look at what’s needed, a lot of municipalities don’t have the right people in place . . . they just don’t have enough corporals out there to supervise workers.”
McMullen told council that the Town is doing the things it should be doing, but can do better by having more direct supervision of workers.
The occupational health and safety specialist said the most frequently asked question by WorkSafe BC officers is: “Where was the supervisor when the accident occurred?”
But surely the employee has some responsibility to work safely.
McMullen said workers have a responsibility to follow safe procedures and not endanger fellow workers. They can also refuse unsafe work.
Mayor Ron Hovanes asked if employers are responsible for a worker’s stupidity.
Not always.
McMullen cited one incident where an employee played a prank on a fellow worker in a gravel parking lot. The employee intended to scare his colleague by seeing how close he could stop his vehicle next to the worker. The vehicle slid on the gravel and knocked the worker into a structure. The WorkSafe BC officer asked the driver if he had ever been told not to commit horseplay on the job. The guy said no, and the company was cited for failing to list horseplay in its OHS program. Common sense has nothing to do with it, McMullen said.