Worker Health and Safety Assignment
The Occupation Health and Safety Act create an Internal Responsibility System to which all persons operating in a workplace are subject. Although all persons in the workplace have a role in ensuring health and safety is maintained at the workplace, the employer has the main responsibility when it comes to health and safety. Employers and supervisors have a duty to inform workers of potential hazards in their operations or at the premises. Workers indeed have a duty to convey any situation that is potentially harmful and unsafe in their work environment. Ben Wallace’s Auto Repair, Finishing & Assembly violated the Occupation Health and Safety Act in a number of ways.
PART II: ADMINISTRATION
The formation of the Joint Health and Safety Committee was contrary to the law. The representatives of the workers in the JHSC were not appointed by the worker’s union as required by the Act. The JHSC also neglected its duties mandated by Act. The supervisor suggested that the committee met at least twice or three times in a year. Furthermore, no discussions concerning health and safety at the workplace were mentioned. Regulations indicate that the JHSC has a function of identifying workplace hazards such as working conditions, production techniques, substances or machinery that may endanger the health and safety of employees [clause 9(18)(a)].
Hazards at the workplace are identified by means of an inspection by a designated member of the committee who represented the workers. The enterprise failed to uphold this regulation. There were no regular inspections or inspection schedule to ensure that part of the workplace was inspected monthly or the entire workplace inspected annually [subsections 9(26), (27) and (28)].
Mr. Cheatum failed in his duties to the committee. After issuing Mr. Cheatum with a report on health and safety of workers at the workstation, four months passed without a response from the employer. Mr. Cheatum was mandated by the regulation to provide a written response to the report and recommendations made within 21 calendar days [subsection 9(20) and (21).
In order to avoid violation of the Act, the employer should have followed the correct procedure when forming the JHSC. In addition, Mr. Cheatum should have read and understood the Occupation Health and Safety Act. The employer should have allowed the worker’s union to appoint their representatives in the committee. In addition, the committee should have exercised work ethics and conduct their functions of investigating potential hazards at the workstation as required by rule.
PART III: DUTIES OF EMPLOYERS AND OTHER PERSONS
- Employer, Mr. Cheatum
Mr. Cheatum had a duty to ensure that his employees and fully informed and instructed on how to protect their health and safety [clause 25 (2) (a)]. It is evident that most workers are unaware of the potential danger of the chemicals they use at the workstation. The workers are not provided with protective clothing despite the fact that the liquids they handled were combustible. As part of his duties, Mr. Cheatum should have undertaken his employees through training on handling, usage, handling and disposal of hazardous materials. The liquids handled by his employees were dangerous. Mr. Cheatum never informed them of the potential danger of the chemicals or train them on how to work with such chemicals [clause 25 (2) (d)].
In addition, Mr. Cheatum failed to exercise ethics when he appointed his son as a supervisor without any experience in operations. Howie Cheatum was not competent for the position for a number of reasons. Howie was not qualified as a supervisor whether by knowledge, training or experience. He was not familiar with the OHS Act neither was he aware of any potential hazards to workers at the work station [clause 25 (2) (c)].
Furthermore, the employer neglected to make publicly available and accessible a copy of the Occupation Health and Safety Act or advisory materials on workers’ rights and responsibilities. The existing copy of the Act was kept in the secretary’s office and was only available in English despite the fact that 60 percent of the employees spoke Spanish as their first language. The regulation requires that a copy of the OSHA be made available in English as well as any other language in which a majority of workers use for communication [clause 25 (2) (i)].
Mr. Cheatum’s enterprise had no internal policy on workplace health and safety. According to the Duties of Employers [clause 25 (2) (j)], a written policy is required at any workplace to be prepared and reviewed annually by law. The result is that workers are not aware of the Act or their rights and responsibilities to ensure health and safety at the workplace.
Howie Cheatum violated the regulation on Workplace harassment. He used the words ‘You’re probably just having some kind of ‘woman’s problem’ on a female employee who used her right to refuse to work when she saw that the work was potentially dangerous to her pregnancy. The words used by the supervisor were unwelcome, humiliating and demeaning to the female employee. The employee did not respond probably because she was not aware of the internal policy on workplace harassment, if at all there was any. This was contrary to subsections 32.0.1(1), 32.0.1(2) and (3)] that requires all establishments operating under the OSH Act to prepare and review policies on workplace violence and workplace harassment.
A supplier made delivery of hazardous liquids in every two weeks. The barrels in which the liquids were delivered were worn out and did not clearly identify the product because the labels were either ripped off or damaged. The supplier’s actions were contrary to [subsection 31(1)] where suppliers were required to supply materials in containers that were in good condition.
The supervisors made no effort to ensure that the workplace showed compliance with the OHS Act nor did they exercise any reasonable precaution to protect the health and safety of workers. The workers handling hazardous chemicals were not provided with protective equipment. The actions of the supervisors did not reflect duties required of them by the Act in clauses 27 (1) (a), clause 27 (1) (b) and clause 27 (2) (c).
Mr. Cheatum should have informed his employees of the potential danger of the chemicals they used at their workstation. He should have put forward proper mechanism for training the workers on how to handle the hazardous substances. In exercising ethics and professionalism, Mr. Cheatum should have appointed a competent supervisor to overlook the running of his enterprise. He should have made the supervisors and employees aware of the existence of the OSHA and drafted an internal policy on employee health and safety. Proper policy and mechanisms should have been put in place to ensure employee awareness of their rights in the event of harassment. In addition, the supplier should have been made aware of the damage to his barrels and advice him to replace them with new ones which clearly indicated the hazard sign.
PART IV: TOXIC SUBSTANCES
Employees at the workstation were unaware of the fact that they handled toxic materials in their operations. The liquids delivered were combustible and required great care during handling. Some of the workers exhibited symptoms of illness as a result of handling harmful materials. The workers were unaware of this fact and continued operations without wearing protective equipment. The employer made no attempt to provide them with protective gear. The OHS Act provides methods of limiting workers’ contact with toxic substances. According to the law, every worker has a right to know of any hazardous materials in the workplace. Mr. Cheatum also failed to make certain that all hazardous materials were identified at the workplace. Workers and supervisors using the hazardous liquid had no proper training of its handling or storage.
The MSDS the employer acquired from the supplier had expired for quite some time. The secretary confirmed the fact that no none had requested for the MSDS for quite some time. This implies that Mr. Cheatum had neglected his responsibility of updating the MSDS after every three years. Furthermore, the MSDS was not readily available as it was kept in the storage room which took almost two weeks to locate. Delay in the availability of the MSDS is contrary to subsection 38(1) of the Act which requires the sheet to be readily available upon request by workers, the JHSC or a medical officer of health. According to clause 37(1) (a), the employer is required to identify all the potential dangerous materials at the workplace and prepare or obtain an unexpired MSDS. Moreover, the MSDS should be available in both English and another major language which employees use for communication in accordance with clause 37(1) (c). Subsection 37(3) prohibits the use and storage of hazardous materials at the workplace unless an employer undertakes workers through the necessary training of proper handling and acquires an unexpired MSDS from the supplier of the hazardous material.
One of the barrels supplied contained formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a colorless gas with a pungent smell at room temperature. The gas causes irritation to the skin, eyes, nose and lungs at low dilution levels. The Department of Health and Human Services ruled formaldehyde as a human carcinogen. Studies by Conolly Rory et al., formaldehyde causes ‘nasal squamous cell carcinoma’. However, the possibility of patients infected is quite low. In his studies, Wartew indicates the possibility of nasopharyngeal and sinosal cancer while Zhang et al. found a relationship between patients exposed to formaldehyde and leukemia. Formaldehyde enters the body through inhalation, intake through food and drinks as well as through contact with the skin. Formaldehyde enters the body only when air, food and liquids that comes into contact with someone contains the gas.
The employer should have informed the workers of the toxic nature of the substances they used in their operations. He should have acquired a new MSDS from the supplier once it had expired after three years.
PART V: RIGHT TO REFUSE OR TO STOP WORK WHERE HEALTH AND SAFETY IN DANGER
One of the female workers, Eleina, used her right to refuse to work when she believed that the liquid spray they used to spray the fabric of the seat covers was dangerous to her health and that of her unborn child. Eleina was dismissed from work without pay when she remained adamant after the supervisor maintained that the product was not harmful. No further investigations to Eleina’s argument were conducted. The supervisor acted in contravention to subsection 43(7) which required him to refer the investigation to the employer who should inform the Ministry of Labor so that prosper investigation and inspection can be carried out.
The supervisor should have advised the employer of the refusal to work after his own investigation failed to convince the worker to resume operations.
PART VI: REPRISALS BY THE EMPLOYER PROHIBITED
Eleina was penalized for refusing to work on the grounds of unsafe tools and equipment. Howie Cheatum, the supervisor dismissed her from work without making arrangements for her pay. The law prohibits the supervisor from making such a dismissal according to subsection 50(1) of the Act. A worker who refuses work has a right to do so and not to be punished for exercising their right under the OHSA.
Howie Cheatum should have followed the necessary procedure to follow in the event of refusal to work. Should the work under investigation be found safe, then Eleina would have to work or seek termination from employment if otherwise.
Bernard, Elaine. ”Canada: Joint committees on occupational health and safety.” In Works councils: consultation, representation, and cooperation in industrial relations, pp. 351-374. University of Chicago Press, 1995.
Conolly, Rory B., Julia S. Kimbell, Derek Janszen, Paul M. Schosser, Darin Kalisak, Julian Preston, and Frederick J. Miller. “Human Respiratory tract cancer risks of inhaled formaldehyde: dose response predictions derived from biologically-motivated computational modeling of a combined rodent and human dataset.” Toxicological sciences 82, no.1 (2004): 279-296.
Levine, Richard J., Dragana A. Andjolkovich, and Linda K. Shaw. ”The mortality of Ontario undertakers and a review of formaldehyde-related mortality studies.” Journal of Occupational and Environmental medicine 26, no.10 (1984): 740-746.
O’Grady, John. “Joint Health and safety committees: Finding a balance.” Injury and the new world of work (2000): 162-197.
Tucker, Eric. “Diverging trends in worker health and safety protection and participation in Canada, 1985-2000.”Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations (2003): 395-426.
Walters, Vivienne, and Ted Haines. “Workers’ use and knowledge of the ‘Internal Responsibility System’: limits to participation in occupational health and safety.” Canadian Public Policy/ Analyse de Politiques (1988): 411-423.
Wartew, G.A.” The Health hazards of formaldehyde” Journal of Applied Technology 3, no.
Zhang, Luoping, Craig Steinmaus, David A. Eastmond, Xianjun K. Xin, and Martyn T. Smith. “Formaldehyde exposure and leukemia: a new meta-analysis and potential mechanisms.” Mutational Research/Reviews in Mutational Research 681, no. 2(2009): 150-168.