Employer’s obligation to ensure health and safety not limited to health and safety of its own employees

Supreme court | Labour and Employment Law | Occupational health and safety legislation | Offences under legislation

Worker was tree feller working as independent contractor. Worker was fatally struck by rotting tree while working within area of forest license held by employer. Workers’ Compensation Board investigated accident and concluded that employer had failed to ensure that all activities of forestry operation were planned and conducted in manner consistent with s. 26.2(1) of Occupational Health and Safety Regulation. Board imposed administrative penalty on employer pursuant to s. 196(1) of Workers Compensation Act. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal dismissed employer’s appeal, but reduced administrative penalty. British Columbia Supreme Court and Court of Appeal upheld Tribunal’s order. Employer appealed. Appeal dismissed. Tribunal’s interpretation of s. 196(1) of Act, which covered employer as it operated with respect to worksite where fatality occurred, was not patently unreasonable. Employer’s obligation to ensure health and safety of workers at worksite was not limited to health and safety of its own employees. Broad interpretation of s. 196(1) to include employers under Act whose conduct could have constituted breach of their obligations as owners would best further statutory goal of promoting workplace health and safety and deterring future accidents.

West Fraser Mills Ltd. v. British Columbia (Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal) (2018), 2018 CarswellBC 1234, 2018 CarswellBC 1235, 2018 SCC 22, 2018 CSC 22, McLachlin C.J.C., Abella J., Moldaver J., Karakatsanis J., Wagner J., Gascon J., Côté J., Brown J., and Rowe J. (S.C.C.); affirmed (2016), 2016 CarswellBC 3290, 2016 BCCA 473, Newbury J.A., Tysoe J.A., and Groberman J.A. (B.C. C.A.).

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