In early January, the Ontario Court of Justice overturned a trial decision concerning an infraction of the Occupational Health and Safety Act by an employer. The employer—a car wash operator—was initially held accountable for a workplace accident that occurred while he (the employee) was using equipment that he was not trained on during an unsupervised period. The error resulted in the injury of another person and thus the employer was on the line both for not providing proper training and for failing to supervise his employee’s actions.
However, after examining the case more closely and finding that a number of errors of law had been made, the Ontario Court of Justice came to a different conclusion.
But let’s back up for a second.
The story goes like this. The employee in the case was hired at the car wash facility as a cleaner. During his training, he was told specifically not to drive the cars. One day he chose to drive a vehicle into the wash bay and caused a chain of collisions and injured a co-worker. His employer was charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for the reasons discussed earlier and was found guilty by a Justice of the Peace.
Though when the case was appealed to the Ontario Court of Justice, a number of important errors were identified—all of which are highly important for all employers to take note of.
First, they affirmed that it was not reasonable to expect the employer to train the employee on the safe operation of a vehicle, considering he was hired as a cleaner and was told not to drive. The employer had no reason to believe that his employee would then go ahead and operate a vehicle on the job. The court also found that the employer could not have been expected to contemporaneously supervise his employee at all times. Because there is no legal requirement in workplaces that a worker must be given detailed information, instruction and warning every time they perform a task—i.e., the employer should not have to say don’t drive the cars every time he leaves the employee’s sight—the Ontario Court of Justice concluded that the employer was not responsible for the employee’s unsupervised error.
So, what should employers take away from this?
The crucial piece of information gained from this decision is that as an employer, you are not required to provide training to a worker regarding a workplace function outside of their job description. This means that if you have no reason to believe that an employee will ever perform a particular task, you’re not expected to provide them with training for that task. Moreover, the decision also affirms that you’re not liable for an employee’s unsupervised action if they have specifically chosen to perform a task that they are not trained for.
For more information about your rights under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, contact Employment Professionals Canada. We can help you understand how this decision affects your workplace, as well as provide consultation about employee training procedures.