Canadian Rental Service

What Went Hong: Working with safety inspectors

By James Hong   

Features Government and regulatory

If your company has ever had a reportable onsite incident you may be aware of how stressful that situation can be. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety defines a workplace incident as “an occurrence, condition or situation arising in the course of work that resulted in or could have resulted in injuries, illnesses, damage to health or fatalities.” It is intimidating for workers to report an incident to their company and even more intimidating for the company to report an incident to a government authority. There are major penalties for breach of responsibility on both the worker and employer sides, as well as potentially destructive lawsuits not to mention serious long-term disability claims in some cases. Penalties for failing to report or neglecting to provide documentation can lead to suspension of operational licencing as well as the downgrading of business ratings for insurance purposes and project bidding. If you have any questions about procedures, the nature of an incident or safety requirements, there are toll free numbers for each province. 

Let’s go through the steps of working with provincial authority regional safety advisors and regional safety inspectors. Once an incident occurs there are reporting protocols. If the incident involved city authorities coming to the scene, they are required by law to report the incident to regional authorities. This triggers an onsite attendance by the regional safety inspector. The company representative, safety officer or designated individual must also attend and immediately report the incident to the reporting authority, providing a statement to the attending safety inspector. Once this has been done, a permanent regional safety inspector will be assigned to the case and follow up with a request for a written report. It is not unusual for a worksite to be shut down until code breaches are rectified depending on the nature of the incident.

Incident reports have six basic requirements: provide information, take note of damage and injuries, identify affected individuals, identify witnesses and take statements, create an action plan and submit a report. 

Officials will provide deadlines for your reporting requirements. Each step is critical to the process. Steps 1 through 3 are self explanatory so I’ll jump to Step 4: identify witnesses and take statements. This step can be extremely time-consuming and it’s important to start this at the scene of the incident. Collect the names, contact details and work roles of everyone at the scene. If there is time to do so, also record brief statements. Following the actual incident, contact your witnesses, ask questions and record full statements. Again, what, where, when, who and how. These statements will either corroborate the city and  regional safety inspector reports or fail to be consistent. You may want to inform yourself of the official authority  reports prior to your internal investigation to be prepared to dispute and or verify what witnesses say to you. Once your internal investigation is finished include all the information in the final report. 

Step 6, creating an action plan, is one of the most important things you can do for the future safety of both the workers and the company. It goes without saying that this can also be very time consuming. It requires involvement from everyone concerned, including management, workers and the safety representative. Take into consideration everyone’s input, deconstruct the incident to determine the cause and apply the preventive measures required. Take the end result and create a step-by-step implementation process with preventive outcomes and summarize the efficacy of your plan in your report.

After the final report is submitted to authorities, the regional safety inspector will review and either accept or recommend further steps and requirements.

And finally and importantly, hold a company wide meeting and debrief everyone with the findings and solutions.  

James Hong is an OH&S consultant, independent writer and journalist.. 

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