I was driving past a huge commercial construction site last week and thought, wow, these guys are undoubtedly heavy into safety compliance under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (as it’s called in Ontario) – or whatever they call it in your province.
Along with the planning process, building codes and more, the big construction firms have to factor in the cost of safety for their workers, sub trades and everyone else who comes onto their sites. This means the work usually takes a little longer, but everyone gets to go home at night to their families.
What about you, the independent renovation contractor? Your own business may look nothing like one of the big commercial builders. But the same safety risks are there. Imagine you’re working away at a homeowner’s residence, hired and paid directly by the homeowner. No mandatory WSIB will apply in your case, in Ontario, as long as you aren’t doing any commercial work. You are finishing your client’s basement, perhaps, a far cry for the commercial job site I just described, and the last thing on your mind is safety. Hey, you’ve been doing it for years and you’ve been safe, as nothing has ever happened to you or any sub trades you’ve hired. And perhaps everyone gave you their WSIB clearance. They are on their own as far as safety liability, right?
WRONG and this is where the disconnect comes in. Your are under the same rules, laws and regulations as the biggest commercial contractors. Yet important information about safety compliance, legal liability, etc., has never filtered down to you as an independent. As you brought other trades onto your job site, you left safety issues up to them.
I personally think that WSIB is a big part of the problem, in Ontario. When sub trades give you their clearance, you think they are independent and you are not responsible for them. But when they prove they are cleared with the WSIB, it doesn’t mean you are not responsible for their safety. It means ONLY that you are not responsible for their WSIB premiums!
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, policed by the Ministry of Labour (MoL) in Ontario, there is no such person as a self-employed sub trade. Everyone who comes onto your home renovation job site becomes your employee automatically under the MoL laws. You are responsible for them, if you are the general contractor, and if they bring a damaged ladder and fall off it, you face prosecution if you have not followed current safety laws.
Failure to comply with safety regulations and to protect someone’s safety comes with a BIG price tag. Each offense carries up to a $25,000 fine and if you have incorporated your one man/person show, it goes up to $500,000 and everyone faces up to a year in jail.
When a individual fell off a ladder in Toronto last year, landing on a homeowner’s fence, the job site supervisor who transported him to hospital tried to cover his tracks by saying that it happened at the victim’s own home. The supervisor was found guilty of telling a lie under investigation by the MoL and found himself in jail for 14 days just before Christmas 2013. He was still luckier than the worker who suffered the fall. He subsequently died of his injuries.
Something to think about. For more information, see my article: Why was this roofer’s life worth so little?
CARAHS was founded as a non profit association to advocate and mentor independent self employed renovators and home services (Canadian Association of Renovators and Home Services)
Members toll free hot line 1-866-366-2930 for issues on WSIB, Safety MOL, reducing fines or job site closure to customer issues and more. Unlimited usage.
CARAHS has over 120 online Health & Safety e-courses