A public meeting on the idea of issuing tickets for a select number of safety violations at workplaces was held in Hay River on April 4.
In all, 20 people with various concerns about the concept or just interested in hearing what it was all about turned up for the gathering by the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC) for the NWT and Nunavut.
Shirley Walsh, legal counsel with the WSCC, said ticketing is being proposed as a less onerous, less time-consuming and less expensive process than prosecution.
“Ticketing is meant to address serious non-compliance or repeated non-compliance where there maybe hasn’t been an actual injury yet,” she said, although she noted the WSCC will continue to focus on education and collaboration with employers and workers.
The proposed ticketing system would cover only three offences by workers.
Failing to use safeguards, safety equipment and personal safety equipment required by regulations, and failing to follow safe work practices and procedures developed under regulations.
Starting powered mobile equipment without doing a complete visual inspection of the surrounding area to ensure a worker is not endangered by the start-up of the equipment.
Reactivating a lockout process or removing a lockout device unless the worker is designated to do so by the employer.
“How we chose these is we did go back and look through directions that we issued since the new regulations came in,” said Walsh.
The single offence for which an employer might receive a ticket is failing to comply with a direction issued by a safety officer.
Walsh noted there was a previous consultation on ticketing in 2016-2017.
At that time, there were more offences listed.
Walsh said the proposed ticket system is to fill a gap not covered by education and collaboration, issuing directions and stop-work orders, and prosecution.
“There isn’t something that’s in the middle,” she said. “There isn’t a tool that really helps to drive home this is serious, it needs to be taken seriously, and to address the repeat offences or the repeat offenders or the things that pose a real risk.”
Walsh noted that, like a traffic ticket, there would be a right to appeal.
The fines are proposed to be $250 for employees and $2,000 for employers.
Walsh said the earliest a ticket system would likely be in place would be the beginning of 2019.
Bert Hausauer, the chief safety officer with the WSCC, was also at the meeting.
“Ticketing is just another way of trying to help,” said Hausauer. “It’s smaller enforcements really from not having to go as far as a prosecution.”
Reactions to the proposed ticketing system seemed to be mixed among the people – apparently mostly employers – at the public meeting
Pierre (Rocky) Simpson, the owner of Concept Energy Services Ltd., disagreed with the idea.
“Using tickets, I think, is targeting a certain segment of businesses, which appears to be the construction-type industry, not the office-type worker,” he said.
Plus, Simpson wondered if the four proposed offences would be just the start.
“My concern is that once you’ve opened up that door to changing that legislation, those four items will turn into eight items and turn into 16 items and continue on like that, and I don’t know where it will stop,” he said.
Walsh said that is not the intent of the concept, noting the WSCC has had the power to issue tickets for years over smoking in the workplace and no other offences were added.
Michael Wallington of Hay River Poultry Farms wondered how transparent the process will be in deciding when tickets will be issued.
Hay River was the first stop in WSCC’s consultation on the proposed ticketing system.
Meetings will also be held throughout April in Iqaluit, Cambridge Bay, Yellowknife and Inuvik.