Bill C-45

Posted by  On February 2, 2005

If you are not aware, Bill C-45 received Royal Assent November 7, 2003.

This bill amends the Criminal Code of Canada to clearly define who is responsible for the safety of persons in the workplace. It also allows for prosecution under charges of “criminal negligence” when those responsibilities are recklessly or willfully disregarded.

The amended bill states that: “ Every one who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task. “

Bill C-45 broadens the scope of liability of corporations as it refers to an “organization” rather than a corporation. The current definition has been expanded to include a “firm, partnership, a trade union, and an association of persons created for a common purpose.” The definition of a senior officer has been expanded to include one who is responsible for setting policy or managing an important aspect of the firm’s activities. It’s the function of the individual rather than the person’s title that defines the role they play within the organization.

What this means for you and your company is that organizations can and will be held responsible for the actions of all of their employees, and for their lack of action. This includes directors, executive officers, operations managers, plant managers, production managers, and so on. These are the people with authority to make decisions about day-to-day operations.

Employers must take these responsibilities seriously. This is an excellent time to review your existing policies and procedures, training requirements and safety budgets, and make changes where changes are needed. Good Health and Safety programs don’t just exist; they need support, encouragement, and more than just lip service. The benefits of a good program are many, the cost of a poor one, far too high.

— Ralph Balbaa M.Eng., P.Eng., is a health and safety expert with more than 40 years of engineering experience and a former Ministry of Labour consultant. He is the President of HITE Engineering, a Mississauga-based consulting firm specializing in industrial and construction safety.

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