Northern Exposure

Employers need to understand injury reporting obligations

By Rosalind H. Cooper

In most provinces across Canada, occupational health and safety legislation requires that employers and other workplace parties report injuries and incidents to the appropriate government ministry.

While most reporting requirements relate to workplace injuries, there are also requirements to report certain types of incidents regardless of whether there is an associated injury. Most of these legislative provisions require strict compliance with tight reporting timelines.

In a case involving Walinga Inc., the company was charged with failing to report a workplace injury. The decision highlights the employer’s obligation in Canada to follow up with workers injured in workplace accidents and have proper systems in place to ensure that relevant information reaches those responsible for regulatory reporting requirements.

Failure to report injury

Walinga Inc. is a company in Guelph, Ontario, that manufactures transportation equipment, portable pneumatic conveying systems, and recycling trucks. A worker at the company was stacking parts onto a skid. The last part stacked caused the load to tip and fall toward a worker. The worker’s lower leg was trapped under the parts.

Once the worker had been freed, he was taken to a healthcare facility to assess his injuries. The injured worker was diagnosed with a leg fracture. The Critical Injury Regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) in Ontario, deem a leg fracture a “critical injury” that triggers reporting requirements to the Ontario Ministry of Labour.

When the worker was at the hospital, he was given a Workplace Safety and Insurance Board report. The form indicated that the worker could return to work with modified duties but did not state that the worker had a broken leg. The worker reported to a nightshift supervisor that he had a broken leg and provided a copy of the form. The following day, his scheduled day off, the worker phoned his employer and told his supervisor that he had a broken leg.

On the worker’s next scheduled workday, three days later, the worker attended a meeting with human resources staff. He again stated he had a broken leg. Later that day, the Ministry told the company that it had received information that a worker had broken his leg at the workplace four days earlier. Human resources staff at the company and the injured worker confirmed that the company was in the process of reporting the matter to the Ministry of Labour.

Ministry charges Walinga

The Ministry concluded that Walinga had not taken any steps to confirm the nature of the injury and report to the Ministry as required by Section 51(1) of the OHSA. On this basis, Walinga was charged for failing to report a critical injury to the Ministry of Labour as required. Walinga pleaded guilty and was fined $20,000 plus the 25 percent victim fine surcharge as required under the Provincial Offences Act.

The case demonstrates that the Ministry of Labour views the reporting of workplace injuries as a serious matter. If the Ministry of Labour learns about an incident that ought to have been reported, it will lay charges. While the fine in this case may not be considered by some to be significant, the company now has a conviction on its record. A conviction will increase the penalty in the event of future charges under OHSA.

Advice on reporting

In Canada, when a worker has a workplace injury, a company must follow up with that worker to understand the nature of the injuries sustained. The company must ensure that reporting requirements are followed. In this case, the injured worker reported his diagnosis to the nightshift supervisor and a supervisor the following day. Both supervisors should have reported the injury immediately to human resources staff, which had an obligation to ensure that the information was reported to the Ministry of Labour.

In many instances, information regarding injuries is not available to the employer immediately after the injury, or workers fail to provide the information to their employers. In these cases, proper follow-up with the worker will allow the company to argue that it made best efforts to learn the nature of the injury and comply with reporting requirements. Similarly, all supervisors must understand the importance of proper reporting and ensuring that reports are made on time.

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