www.cos-mag.com
Nov 21, 2012

Arrest warrant possible with proposed OHS ticket system, Alberta OHS officials say

By Mari-Len De Guzman
EDMONTON — Alberta workers and employers ticketed for an occupational health and safety infraction could face arrest if they refuse to act on the ticket, officials from the Alberta Human Services said.
In his presentation at the 11th annual Alberta Health and Safety Conference, Mark Rice, safety specialist with the occupational health and safety policy group at Alberta Human Services, said the on-the-spot OHS ticketing system the province is proposing to implement would be similar to traffic tickets issued to drivers in traffic violations.

With an OHS ticket, violators have three choices, Rice said: pay the fine, challenge the ticket or completely ignore it.

“If (workers or companies) choose to ignore the ticket, the initial plan, is there could be a warrant of arrest,” Rice said. If a worker with an outstanding OHS ticket was pulled over by police, for example, that worker’s name would show up on police computer as having an outstanding ticket and they would be asked to pay or face arrest, Rice explained further.

The ticketing system is one of two new “enhanced compliance tools” that will soon be available for use by Alberta health and safety officers in the course of their duties, according to Kevin Smadis, manager of compliance for the Alberta Human Services occupational health and safety group. A new administrative penalty system is also being implemented along with the ticketing system.

Smadis said the goal of these new compliance tools — tickets and administrative penalties — is to ensure that worksite parties comply with health and safety legislated requirements, and keep workers healthy and safe.

He said these new compliance tools were in response to continued problems of persistent or repeated non-compliance with OHS legislation, the recent increase in provincial injury rate and an unacceptably high fatality rate among workers.

“We want to put these tools as a middle ground between compliance orders and OHS prosecution,” Smadis said.

The ticketing and administrative penalty systems will be added to a set of “compliance kit” available to provincial OHS officers to move companies and individuals to comply with OHS legislative requirements. Also within this compliance tool kit are education tools, such as OHS publications, employer meetings, worksite inspections and training, that OHS officers can use to help organizations achieve compliance, explained Smadis.

OHS officers may also issue compliance orders, stop work orders, stop use orders or ask for management meetings, as an effort towards compliance.

Under the proposed ticketing system, a ticket may be issued if a contravention is observed by an OHS officer on the worksite, Rice said. There are 11 general categories of contraventions that may enable an officer to issue a ticket: administrative requirements; personal protective equipment; fall protection; fire and explosion prevention; equipment safety; cranes, hoists and rigging; stairways and ladders; unsafe behaviours; chemical and biological hazards; housekeeping; and falling objects.

In preparation for the new on-the-spot ticketing system, provincial OHS officers will be trained to become peace officers, giving them the authority to issue tickets, said Rice.

Tickets may be issued to either an employer or a worker. Before OHS officers can issue tickets to workers, they must first establish that the employer has done its due diligence and that the infraction is solely due to the employee’s non-compliance, Smadis noted.

The proposed amount of ticket for employers is $500. The ticket amount for workers, on the other hand, is $200. In both instances, a 15 per cent victim surcharge will be added, Rice said.

The proposed maximum administrative penalty for employers is $10,000 per day for each contravention, according to Kenn Hample, director of the OHS policy group.

Hample said under the proposed administrative penalty system, the following circumstances could trigger a penalty levy: a contravention of a single provision of the OHS legislation; contravention of multiple provisions of the legislation; non-compliance with an OHS officer’s order; non-compliance with the conditions of an acceptance issued pursuant to the legislation; and non-compliance with an approval
Issued pursuant to the legislation.

“Our whole aim is to re-establish compliance and make sure that people stay safe in the worksite,” said Hample. “An administrative penalty system is intended to be a deterrent; it’s a consequence for the creation of risk.”

The Alberta Human Services officials told conference attendees both the new ticketing system and administrative penalty system are expected to be implemented next spring.