A recent decision by the Ontario Court of Appeals has clarified a grey area for many employers concerning reporting non-worker workplace injuries or fatalities.
Back in December 2007, a guest at the Blue Mountain Resorts drowned in one of their swimming pools. Blue Mountain did not report the incident to the Ministry of Labour because it did not directly involve any of their workers.
However, the Minister later ordered Blue Mountain to report the fatality since they are obligated under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to report any critical injury or fatality that occurs in the workplace—regardless of whether or not it pertains to an employee or another individual.
Blue Mountain appealed the order to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (where it was dismissed). They then moved on to the Court of Appeal for Ontario, which found that Blue Mountain did in fact have reasonable grounds for appealing the order.
The Court of Appeal’s position was the following: that holding employers to these standards would produce “absurd” results, and that a number of stipulations should be put in place to determine when an injury or death is reported to the Ministry.
The Court of Appeal concluded that a death or injury of a non-worker should only be reported in the following circumstances (as summarized by Hicks-Morley):
- When the death or critical injury occurs at a place where a) a worker is carrying out his or her employment duties at the time the incident occurs, or b) a place where a worker might reasonably be expected to be carrying out such duties in the ordinary course of his or her work (“workplace”).
- When there is some reasonable nexus between the hazard giving rise to the death or critical injury and a realistic risk to worker safety at the workplace.
Since the Blue Mountain incident did not meet the criteria—i.e., there was no evidence that it was caused by any hazard that would impact workplace safety—it was not necessary for them to report it.
How does this impact my workplace?
This decision helps clarify when you are obligated to report a workplace injury or fatality to the Ministry of Labour. In the event of one of these unfortunate circumstances, the situation needs to be assessed carefully to determine if your workers were/are exposed to the same hazard that caused the incident.
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