Friday, July 13, 2012

Due Diligence Defined

This months safety message is about the evolution of safety and the laws we have to abide by.  It sounds like common sense to try to prevent accidents, and the last couple hundred years of evolution since the start of the industrial revolution has taught us a few things.  Think about it… back when people made a living off of the land and the only professionals were the odd craftsman in the villages, people hardly got hurt, and even then not that seriously.  Then as factories started  cranking out hammer heads and coal shovels, workers started getting mangled.  At first they just wrote it off to stupidity but when chimney sweeps developed black lungs and coal miners started dropping dead, the government introduced regulations to force industry to make improvements.  It was said for years, that these regulations were written in the blood of many dead workers and it wasn’t until the recent past that industry became proactive and looked at accident prevention as a science, with experts trained in the latest developments.

In the early 1900s British Columbia's population and workforce was growing rapidly and had a desperate need for a compensation system. Forestry, fishing, and mining were the province's core industries — and working conditions in the woods, on the boats, and in the mines were often shockingly dangerous.   In the worst mining disaster in the province's history, 148 miners lost their lives in a gas explosion at the Vancouver Coal and Land Co. mine in 1887. Their widows received little compensation from the company other than basic housing and food.

The long-awaited passage of B.C.'s Workmen's Compensation Act came in 1902 but it did not come into force until 1917, when the Workmen's Compensation Board was finally created.  Now, 92 years later, industry is required by law to do the following:

 1.  Practice Due Diligence

Workers’ Compensation Act Section 215 A person is not guilty of an offence if the person proves that the person exercised due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence.

Due diligence means that employers shall take all reasonable precautions, under the particular circumstances, to prevent injuries or accidents in the workplace.

To exercise due diligence, an employer must implement a plan to identify possible workplace hazards and carry out the appropriate corrective action to prevent accidents or injuries arising from these hazards.

The employer must have in place written OH&S policies, practices, and procedures. These would demonstrate that the employer carried out workplace safety audits, identified hazardous practices and hazardous conditions and made necessary changes to correct these conditions, and provided employees with information to enable them to work safely.

The employer must provide the appropriate training and education to the employees so that they understand and carry out their work according to the established polices, practices, and procedures.

The employer must train the supervisors to ensure they are competent persons, as defined in legislation.

The employer must monitor the workplace and ensure that employees are following the policies, practices and procedures. Written documentation of progressive disciplining for breaches of safety rules is considered due diligence.

There are obviously many requirements for the employer but workers also have responsibilities. They have a duty to take reasonable care to ensure the safety of themselves and their coworkers - this includes following safe work practices and complying with rules and regulations.

The employer should have an accident investigation and reporting system in place. Employees should be encouraged to report "near misses" and these should be investigated also. Incorporating information from these investigations into revised, improved policies, practices and procedures will also establish the employer is practicing due diligence.

The employer should document, in writing, all of the above steps: this will give the employer a history of how the company's occupational health and safety program has progressed over time. Second, it will provide up-to-date documentation that can be used as a defence to charges in case an accident occurs despite an employer's due diligence efforts.

All of the elements of a "due diligence program" must be in effect before any accident or injury occurs.


2.  Supervision (Good Supervision)

The Workers’ Compensation Act requires, “Provisions by the employer for the instruction and supervision of workers in the safe performance of their work.”  Necessary, by nature of the Workers’ Compensation Act, are the use of a written and signed Policy Statement (a statement of the employer's aims and the responsibilities of the employer, supervisors and workers, signed by senior management), effective supervision, provisions for holding periodic management meetings for the purpose of reviewing health and safety activities and incident trends, and for the determination of necessary courses of action.

Criminal Code of Canada (Section 217.1):  Everyone who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.



3.  New Worker Orientation and Ongoing Training for Workers

New workers need to be properly oriented and exposed to their responsibilities as well as the company’s policies and procedures. The WCB Act requires “appropriate written instructions, available for reference by all workers, to supplement this Occupational Health and Safety Regulation,” Companies are required to maintain written records of training.



4.  Inspections

Inspections include provision for the “regular inspection of premises, equipment, work methods and work practices, at appropriate intervals, to ensure that prompt action is undertaken to correct any hazardous conditions found, and equipment (Log Books), identifying hazards (WHMIS) and controlling hazards (Using Elimination, Engineering (Maintenance) or Administrative Controls (Policies, Written Procedures, Signage, Education/Training, Supervision, Discipline).  Also required are annual reviews and follow-ups by the OH&S Committee.




5.  Investigations

The Act requires “provisions for the prompt investigation of incidents to determine the action necessary to prevent their recurrence”.  This includes investigations of near-misses and accidents using a mandatory reporting policy and the maintenance of records and statistics, including reports of inspections and incident investigations, with provision for making this information available to the joint committee or worker health and safety representative and, upon request, to an officer.  A proper investigation includes recommendations and review by the Joint OH&S Committee.



6.  Personal Protective Equipment

It is a requirement by law that employers generally provide, and that workers wear, personal protective equipment and that employers annually review their PPE program.



7.  Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee

Following the requirements of the WCB Regulation, an employer with more than 20 employees must maintain an effective joint OH&S Committee. They are responsible to participate in inspections and investigations and to review safety decisions and make recommendations to prevent accidents.



8.  Emergency Procedures and the Provision for First Aid

Employers are required to anticipate emergencies and pre-plan what workers should do.  This also requires performing a First Aid Assessment and ensuring adequate first aid coverage (attendant and supplies).





ACCIDENT CAUSATION 101
Accidents are caused.
Accidents can be prevented if the causes are eliminated.
Unless the causes are eliminated, an accident will happen again.

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