Thursday, July 28, 2011

Safety fines not paid--so more fines?

There is an interesting story in the journal today. Basically a company was fined by the courts for not paying an earlier fine stemming from a 2003 occupational health and safety conviction.

Steve’s Oilfield Services (Edson) Ltd. was fined $90k in 2007 for a serious forklift injury in 2003. Last year, after being embarrassed by news reports on non-payment, the government took court actions to gain payment. Apparently getting companies to pay fines was not a priority until the public ridicule of the government began, which tells you a lot about how OHS has been run over the past decade. Anyhow, last month a judge added $10 grand to the fine.

The trick, though, is that the government is still has to collect the money. It is unclear whether it will be able to pierce the corporate veil to get cash owed if the corporation is simply an asset-less, inactive shell. If not, this points to a serious gap in OHS enforcement: a corporation can escape penalty for injuring or killing a worker by shutting down during the two- to four-year lag between the injury and conviction. So, in effect, there is no penalty.

And one wonders why injuries remain prevalent in Alberta...

-- Bob Barnetson

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