News briefs: OHS news from across Canada and around the world

OHS convictions on the rise in Saskatchewan • Taxi drivers want coverage under OHS legislation • Top Obama OHS bureaucrat calls for tougher penalties

OHS convictions on the rise in Saskatchewan

REGINA — Saskatchewan has already obtained more health and safety convictions this year than it did last year. Recently, the City of Saskatoon pled guilty to one charge under the province’s occupational health and safety regulations. It was fined $10,500 ($7,500 fine plus a $3,000 victim surcharge) for failing to ensure workers were protected from cave-ins of sliding material in a trench. This marks the 12th conviction for violations of Saskatchewan’s OHS legislation in 2010-11, compared with a total of 11 in the previous year.

Taxi drivers want coverage under OHS legislation

TORONTO — Taxi drivers in Ontario want to be considered “workers” and be covered under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Taxi drivers presented proposals last month to the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Panel. Jaswinder Bedi, of the Ontario Taxiworkers Union, said drivers are exposed to dangerous conditions, working alone with cash and are exposed to robbery and assaults. Peter Leibovitch, executive director of Itaxiworkers, also said drivers are not covered by the province’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). Changes that drivers want include the right to refuse unsafe work and making pre-payment of fares mandatory after dark.

Top Obama OHS bureaucrat calls for tougher penalties

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Employer fines for deaths and injuries in American workplaces need to increase, says U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administrator David Michaels. He outlined the government’s workplace health and safety priorities before 3,500 occupational safety, health and environmental professionals at the annual American Society of Safety Engineers conference in Baltimore in June. When it comes to criminal penalties for the loss of workers, Michaels noted his concern.  “Recently a worker died while cleaning a container,” he said. “I believe the employer was slapped with a $175,000 fine. But what gets me is that the same company was fined $10 million dollars for the same incident for causing pollution and negatively hurting the fish and crabs. So how do we tell the family of this worker who died that fish and crabs are worth more than his life?” He pointed out that the maximum sentence for an employer who wilfully ignores safety rules is six months in jail if a worker is killed, yet “if you harass a burro on federal land you can get a year in jail. Does that make sense?” He also addressed issues involving work safety in the Gulf of Mexico involving the BP oil spill, ineffectiveness of incentive safety programs, criminal penalties for fatal worker injuries, chemical standards, distracted driving, high state and city worker injury rates and combustible dust.

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