Monday, February 27, 2012

OHS charges: why the delay?

I was looking through the government's website on OHS prosecutions for a book chapter I'm writing. One of the things I noticed in the section outlining pending OHS charges are the gap between an offense and being charged.

Without exception, the province does not file charges until two years after the date of incident. If I recall correctly, the OHS Act has a two-year limitations clause. This systematic delay in charging employers may reflect the complexities of the investigation and/or under-resourcing at some point in the investigation or prosecution stages.

Part of the purpose of charging an employer under the OHS Act is to make an example of the employer in the hopes of encouraging other employers to obey the law. This two-year lag seems to undermine this effect--the link between the event, being charged and being convicted is long and tenuous. In fact, completing a prosecution takes an average of 3-4 years.

This suggests a system of ticketing might be a useful interim step. Former Minister of Employment and Immigration Thomas Lukaszuk indicated legislation (i.e., a regulation) allowing this was being drafted back in September. The status of this initiative is unclear, given there is a new minister and nothing has been heard about ticketing in some time.

-- Bob Barnetson

1 comment:

  1. Hi Bob,

    Some of the delay from conversations I have had with field level enforcement is the process of determining if the prosecution will be successful. Our legal system itself has contributed to delays such as this and probably most any other prosecution currently before the courts in Alberta. Field level officers will often express great frustration of putting their time and efforts into a job they believe whole heartedly in only to have the system undermine those efforts. Good case in point was the prosecution against Sunshine Village. Ultimately the large Corporation had a great legal team and wiggled out of the fact they killed a young man who performed duties for their profit.

    As for ticketing - I think it is an excellent idea but I caution that we have also allowed a great number of less e4xperienced field personnel loose out there and how do we make sure these tickets are given out judiciously. I cringe everytime I get a youngster out to my sites because it is always a battle of what they don't know - give me that older experienced person anytime!!