Enforcement tools and remedies to protect workers
Richmond, B.C. — WorkSafeBC's Prevention strategy includes consultation, education, and enforcement. With respect to enforcement, WorkSafeBC has a number of tools available under the Workers Compensation Act (the Act) to achieve compliance.
When employers are not in compliance with the Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (OHSR) and disregard WorkSafeBC's orders and penalties, WorkSafeBC can invoke remedies through the court system.
Prior to the Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2015 (Bill 9), the two main court remedies were an order to restrain the employer from conducting business where outstanding penalties have not been paid (under section 46), and an order requiring the employer to comply with the Act and OHS Regulation (under section 198(1)(d)).
If WorkSafeBC obtained a court order requiring compliance with the Act and OHSR and the employer continued to breach it, the next step in the court process would be to apply for a finding of contempt. The court has ruled in favour of a finding of contempt on several occasions.
However, on February 26, 2016, WorkSafeBC's application for a finding of contempt against a company, Seattle Environmental Consulting Ltd., and Mike Singh and Shawn Singh, was rejected. The case involves a 2012 court order under section 198(1)(d), which required the company to comply with the entire Act and OHSR. In 2013, the court held the company and the Singhs in contempt of court after WorkSafeBC put forward evidence of alleged breaches of the Act and the OHSR related to asbestos removal; WorkSafeBC has since provided evidence of an additional 37 health and safety infractions, 13 by Shawn Singh and 24 by Mike Singh and Seattle Environmental Consulting Ltd.
When dismissing the contempt of court application, Mr. Justice Macintosh cited concerns about the broad scope of the earlier order and the fact that the Regulation is "voluminous." WorkSafeBC is appealing this court decision on the basis that WorkSafeBC requires clarity from the Court of Appeal as to whether the size and complexity of a regulation can be a defence to a contempt application in these circumstances. WorkSafeBC shall be relying on the proposition that ignorance of the law is not an excuse for non-compliance with a regulation.
In another case on March 9, 2016, WorkSafeBC was successful in obtaining a court order under s. 198(1)(d). This order requires a roofing firm, RG Roofing Ltd., and its principals, to comply with specific roofing regulations applicable to its business. WorkSafeBC is confident that this narrower order, which requires compliance with specific regulations, will be enforceable if it is breached.
A new tool provided by Bill 9
In addition to these efforts, WorkSafeBC is making use of one of the new tools provided by Bill 9 — the creation of section 198(1)(e) of the Act. This new section allows WorkSafeBC to apply to the court for an order to restrain an employer from operating in an industry where it has contravened the Regulation and is likely to continue to do so. This remedy is distinct from the remedy that exists under section 46, as it is not tied to penalties or assessments.
Related health and safety resources
For more information on what employers can do to protect workers from asbestos exposure, visit the Asbestos resources page at worksafebc.com.
Director, Government, Community & Media Relations