“Oh no! Everyone run! Hide! Don’t say anything! Put on your PPE and stay quiet! A provincial officer/inspector is in the workplace. If they see something, you know nothing.”
Does this sound familiar? Has a provincial officer/inspector ever entered your workplace to conduct an inspection or an investigation? It can be a bit scary if you are not familiar with the process, and it can send a source of panic throughout the organization.
Although sometimes stressful, their goal, ultimately, is to ensure your workplace is compliant with health and safety legislation, regulations and standards. They are also looking to ensure that the Employer is being “due diligent”, meaning that they have taken all reasonable precautions, in the circumstances, for the protection of everyone in the workplace. So, if your workplace has uncontrolled hazards, or is not in compliance with the applicable legislation, a Provincial Order may be issued. If this happens to you, what do you do?
What to Do
An Order is written when your workplace is not compliant with a specific piece of legislation or standard, such as a CSA standard. Orders could be for issues like a machine missing a guard, a workplace violence policy not being posted, or training not being completed. Your first step, should you receive an Order, is to read it over and ask any questions for things that you are unsure of. If the Officer/Inspector is still on site and you don’t fully understand, have them show them to you. Whatever you do, do notargue, even if you don’t agree. Once you understand the orders, keep a close eye on the due dates. It is very common for Order to be due within a couple days of being issued. Create a plan to remedy them. Depending on the order, this may include getting outside help (i.e. arranging third-party training, having contractors come in to service a piece of equipment, or calling Dunk & Associates to assist you). Take the necessary steps to comply with the Order by its due date. If compliance by the due date is not possible, you must contact the provincial officer/inspector and ask for an extension. Extensions are only granted if you can show that steps are being taken to remedy the situation. They are usually only given if there are factors outside of your control that are
At the end of the day, it’s important that you complete the action items to remedy the issue and comply with the Order. Not complying with the Order by the due date may result in fines and charges.
If it is a “Stop Work” Order, this means there is a very serious infraction that has a high risk of injury. In these cases, all or a part of the workplace, (which could just be a specific piece of equipment or process) will be shut down until the employer fixes the issue laid out in the Order. The employer must have all employees affected by the Order stop working, or have them moved to a different area/task until the issue is resolved.
Do not forget to communicate and follow-up with the Officer/Inspector. The employer must report back to them when the orders have been complied with. A written report is required with a signature confirming that the order has been completed. In some cases, the Officer/Inspector will come back for a follow up visit, or ask the employer to send additional documentation as evidence that they are now in conformity.
Depending on the province/territory you are in, the Orders must be posted on your H&S Board for a specific amount of time, which is usually written in fine print on the bottom of the order (generally between 2 weeks to 3 months). These should also be communicated to the Safety Committee/Rep so they can review the orders, and the corrective actions taken. They will then ensure that the hazard(s) indicated in the Orders are include in the Hazard Assessment and they will evaluate the controls that have been implemented to ensure they are effective on an ongoing basis.
Don’t Be Afraid
Keep in mind that a Provincial Officer/Inspector usually cannot see everything in your workplace in a single visit, so just because you only had one or two orders (or hopefully none at all) does not necessarily mean you are 100% compliant. Depending on the circumstances that brought them to your workplace, they may only be looking at specific areas or for specific infractions. Don’t be afraid of having the Provincial Officer/Inspector in your workplace. They are there to help you make your workplace as safe as it can be. Use their expertise and experience to ask questions and gain a better understanding of your hazards and how to most effectively controls them to reduce the risks to your workers.
Still have questions? Did you just get an Order and need some support? Do you not agree with what it says? Give Dunk & Associates a call. That’s what we’re here for. For those that are using our professional safety services, this support is included in your annual fee! If you’ve had orders, make sure you tell us during our monthly/quarterly calls. Often times there are lessons that we can share and we can also offer tips to make sure you’ve successfully remedied the issue.