Workplace safety tribunal shares best practices for teleconference hearings

New documents introduced during the hearing will be addressed via a post-hearing memorandum

Workplace safety tribunal shares best practices for teleconference hearings

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal of Ontario has published its Best Practices and Teleconference Hearing Information for Representatives and Parties.

The document — which applies to new or ongoing prehearing conferences, applications and hearings conducted via teleconference before the tribunal — seeks to ensure that these proceedings keep progressing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The tribunal will flexibly adapt this guidance to suit the particular facts of each case and will update it as the situation continues to evolve.

The tribunal’s scheduling department will send a notice of the teleconference in advance, which will contain key information about the hearing such as the date and time, the dial-in information and the relevant telephone numbers. Participants cannot share the dial-in information with those not legitimately participating.

Representatives should ensure that their clients are equipped with the necessary information, equipment and paper or electronic case file materials and should explain to their clients the teleconference process prior to the hearing.

Participants should be ready to take the call approximately five minutes before the scheduled time. The tribunal prefers the use of landline phones, but if cell phones are used, participants should keep their chargers nearby and set their notifications to silent mode. The tribunal recommends using headphones with a built-in microphone to achieve better sound quality, instead of using speakerphone. The tribunal may ask the participants to mute their microphones when they are not speaking. Other devices not being used should be switched off.

The tribunal will generally adhere to the regular format for its proceedings and will afford each party an opportunity to be heard, in accordance with the principles of natural justice. Participants should speak one at a time and state their name before speaking. They should also provide a page reference if they cite a document in the record. Objections or questions can be respectfully raised at any time. Participants may ask for a break, at which point the line will be disconnected. Participants will then reconnect to the line when the break ends.

Participants are prohibited from recording the proceedings. The tribunal allows observers, but they must be identified at the beginning of the hearing and should not assist the witnesses in giving their testimony. If there are multiple witnesses and they are in different places, they will be reached separately. If they are in the same place, each witness should be present in the room one at a time to give their testimony. The parties will not be excluded from the teleconference line during the testimony of the witnesses.

Participants may introduce new documents on the day of the hearing, but they should keep in mind that these will become post-hearing matters, to be dealt with by the vice-chairperson or by the panel via a post-hearing memorandum, resulting in an additional stage in the proceedings.

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