Over the next few weeks you’ll learn the top five ways to be safe and compliant in your workplace.
By Brynna Leslie
You are. If you own a business, you are liable to preserve safety. Awareness is the number one issue, and it should start with understanding that the laws apply to everybody.
Put simply, if you have employees – even sub-contractors – you have a responsibility to ensure their safety and your own. Things may seem a bit murky if you are a sole-proprietor who works alone or who sometimes works for other people, or if you’re an individual contractor who partners with others or hires sub-contractors to help you on jobs.
It’s best to think of it as a hierarchy. Nine times out of 10, if you are the one planning and implementing most of the job, you are ultimately liable for the safety of anyone who comes onto your work site. If you hire a tradesperson – even another independent business owner – you’re still responsible for their safety and the safety of the site. And if you’re a tradesperson (an independent business owner) working for someone else, you’re liable for your safety and that of the people working around you.
Exactly how liable you are for another worker’s safety depends largely on the nature of the relationship.
“In Nova Scotia, we have a concept called a dependent contractor,” explains Jim Leblanc (director of Occupational Health and Safety for Labour and Advanced Education, in Nova Scotia). “If I’m a contractor who hires a trade that only ever works for me and relies on me for his entire annual income then, even if the trade is organized as a separate entity, the law will treat him more like an employee.”
However, what happens if you’re doing a job completely on your own and you get injured on the job? You could be putting your client at risk.
“The laws state that the contractor – who could be the employer, property manager, owner of the property or a general contractor – is obligated to provide a safe work environment,” says Gerry Culina (manager of general health and safety services for the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety). “One of the problems we often run into is defining who the contractor is. In the case where I’m a homeowner and I hire a subcontractor who falls off my roof, I’m responsible.”
Frankly, that’s just bad for business.
Next week… Part 2: Formalize Safety Policies and Procedures
Brynna Leslie is a freelance writer based in Ottawa and a regular contributor to Canadian Contractor.