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A true tale of a real-life industrial accident

accidentThe Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA) is very clear on the many, many responsibilities employers have for ensuring the safety and well being of their workers. However, not listed in the OHSA is the duty to follow your gut instincts or the duty to lead by example.

This article tells a true tale of a real-life industrial accident.

Steve is a woodworking artist, an expert cabinetmaker, successful entrepreneur, employer and father. He nearly lost his thumb recently in an incident involving human flesh, bone and a drill press. All of the health and safety legislation in the world could not have prevented this event. Why? Because Steve knew what he was doing was dangerous and chose to do it anyway.

Steve has been working around the machinery used for making wood cabinets for many years. So, when his sixteen year old son asked for help with a school woodworking project, he knew exactly what to do. He also knew that the machine he chose to use was the wrong machine for the job. But, it was the most convenient and would get the job done quickly.

Steve’s son was working in the shop on the day of the incident. His dad was mentoring him in the art of woodworking as part of a high school work/study program. Father and son learned a lesson on this day that was not envisioned by the high school curriculum.

Soon after Steve started work on the school project, his son heard a blood-curdling scream and saw his dad’s hand covered in blood. Steve’s thumb had slipped into the drill press because the piece of wood he was working with was too small for use with that particular machine.

His son now knows first aid for a bleeding wound and how to summon help in an emergency situation. So you could say that all is not lost. Steve has not lost his thumb, luckily, and after a long recuperation and some physical therapy he will probably be okay.

I have read the employer responsibilities under sections 25, 26 and 27 of the OHSA many times and most of it seems like common sense to me:

  • Provide protective equipment and devices
  • Hire competent supervisors
  • Provide staff with safety training
  • Take every protection possible for the protection of workers

Among others.

The message of this article is what the law does not say:

  • Use common sense and trust your instincts
  • Lead by example especially in the case of young and inexperience workers

Learn Don’t Litigate:

  • Ensure that your managers and staff are aware of their safety responsibilities according to the law
  • Ensure that your managers and staff are trained in their health and safety responsibilities, workplace hazards, the equipment and protective equipment and device that they use, and the work that they perform
  • ALSO, encourage a workplace culture that stresses common sense and setting a positive example.

Andrew Lawson
Learn don’t Litigate

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Andrew Lawson

Trainer and advisor at Learn Don't Litigate
Andrew Lawson is a human rights and health and safety trainer and advisor, currently consulting to both the federal and Ontario governments. Since 1996, he has conducted extensive legal research in the areas of human rights and occupational health and safety law. He has worked in the people management business for over 25 years. Read more
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