December 2009

Contractors and subcontractors

By Amélie Chouinard Lawyer

Amélie Chouinard, lawyer

When it comes to health and safety on the job, a principal contractor is bound to the same extent as an employer and must accordingly take "the necessary steps to protect the health and ensure the safety and physical well-being of construction workers" (LSST, s. 196).

Major changes coming: Pursuant to an amendment of the Loi sur la santé et la sécurité au travail (LSST), Quebec's Occupational Health and Safety Act, the penalties to employers and contractors for violations of the Act will increase substantially within the next several months:• July 2010: The maximum fine will increase to $40,000 for a first offence and may be up to $200,000 for subsequent offences.

January 2011: The maximum fine will increase to $60,000 for a first offence and may be up to $300,000 for subsequent offences.

How to protect yourself: The principal means of defence an employer or contractor has against a charge of infraction is to show proof of DUE DILIGENCE, which means that they took all necessary means to prevent commission of an offence.

Key elements: To be able to prove due diligence on your part, you must be able to show that:

? An occupational health and safety program is in effect.

? You hold regular worksite meetings with workers concerning health and safety regulations.

? You make sure that safety equipment is available on the worksite and that workers use this equipment properly.? You make sure that workers obey and apply the health and safety rules (supervision).? You take disciplinary action against workers who violate the health and safety rules.

Please note that whether or not disciplinary action was taken against workers who committed infractions is a crucial factor for a due-diligence defence to have a chance of being successful.

Conclusion: Prevention, more than ever, is your best defence against being charged for violations.