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Safety First and Last: A supplier’s duty

When considering parties that have established duties under occupational health and safety laws, we usually gravitate towards the contractor, employer, supervisor, and worker. Each province has clearly set duties that must be exercised.


November 11, 2016
By Jeff Thorne

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But what about suppliers? In many cases, suppliers of tools, equipment or machinery and the services that pertain to them get overlooked. Legal prosecutions of suppliers are not common in comparison to employers and supervisors, however, they do happen. For example, in Ontario, Swing ‘n’ Scaff supplied a swing stage that collapsed resulting in the deaths of four workers and significant injuries to another. The company was fined $350,000 and one of the directors was fined $50,000 for failure to provide equipment in good working condition. A supplier in Saskatchewan was charged and convicted for supplying a piece of equipment without the proper guarding required under the law.

So if you’re a supplier as defined by your OHS legislation, you need to understand the set duties and know how to comply with them. Federally, suppliers are not specifically defined in OHS legislation so we will focus on provincial legislation. In general, provincial legislation defines a supplier as a person who manufactures, sells, rents, leases, erects, installs or provides any tools, equipment, machine, device, or chemical or physical agent to be used by a worker or at or near a workplace. Duties differ slightly from one province to another so it’s important to check the OHS laws of your jurisdiction. Here is a basic summary of the duties of suppliers from one province to another.

Alberta requires that any tool, appliance or equipment supplied is in good working condition and complies with its OHS act, regulations and adopted code.

Nova Scotia, P.E.I., B.C., Manitoba, the North West Territories and Nunavut are quite similar. They require that any tool, equipment, machine, device, biological, chemical or physical agent supplied is safe when used in accordance with directions provided by the supplier and complies with their regulations. They require that, if under a leasing agreement, suppliers maintain any tool, equipment, machine, or device in safe condition. They also require biological and chemical agents to be labeled in accordance with provincial and federal regulations.

Newfoundland simply requires that tools, appliances and equipment supplied are maintained in safe operating condition and comply with standards prescribed by the regulations.

The Yukon and Ontario are quite similar. They require suppliers to ensure the machine, device, tool or equipment is provided in good condition, complies with the act and regulations, and that the equipment is maintained in good condition if it is the suppliers responsibility to do so. Although there are no specific duties for suppliers outlined in these OHS acts with respect to labeling biological and chemical agents in accordance with provincial and federal regulations, those duties are listed in other regulations. Ontario has the same requirement outlined in a separate regulation.

Saskatchewan has a few different terms and requirements that are used. Suppliers must ensure that any substance or any plant supplied by it to an owner, contractor, employer, worker or self-employed person is safe when used in accordance with the instructions provided and complies with the act and regulations. Saskatchewan also requires suppliers, under some circumstances, to provide written instructions respecting the safe use of equipment and to provide written instruction when a supplied piece of equipment does not or may not meet prescribed standards.

The duties of suppliers are quite basic. In a nutshell, if you rent or sell something, make sure it is in good condition. Follow the preventative maintenance schedule set by the manufacturer and don’t let poorly maintained equipment out your door.