According to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, there were over 277,000 workplace injuries in 2021. Could these injuries have been avoided? While employers have an obligation under law to protect their workforce, employees have a role to play too. Here are some steps to take to avoid getting injured at the workplace.
Under Canada’s different laws, employers and employees both have responsibilities to ensure that the workplace is safe and clear of any hazards.
The protection of employees from workplace injuries depends on laws that apply to them: federal laws or provincial laws.
1. Federal employees
Laws at the federal level, which mostly cover federal employees regardless of location, are the Canada Labour Code and the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.
2. Provincial laws
On the other hand, provincial Occupational Health and Safety Acts apply to any other employers and industries that are not federally regulated or are from the private sector.
In addition, protection of employees is also provided under the different Workers’ Compensation Acts of each province. These provincial Acts have established the different Workers’ Compensation Boards (WCB), such as:
- Ontario: Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)
- Québec: CNESST
- British Columbia: WorkSafeBC
- Alberta: WCB Alberta
- Manitoba: WCB of Manitoba
Responsibilities of Employees and Employers
Under the Canada Labour Code, employers and employees are responsible for ensuring that everyone is healthy and safe at the workplace. These provisions are also found in the provincial laws on occupational health and safety.
Employees have these responsibilities under the law:
- use all safety equipment or protective devices provided by the employer
- follow the safety procedures and standards in the workplace and of the industry
- report to the employer –
- any workplace hazard (actual or potential ones)
- any occurrence of occupational diseases or illnesses
- any time an employee is injured at the workplace
- any violation of the Labour Code by the employee or the employer themselves
On the other hand, employers must ensure that:
- employees are informed, trained, and supervised for the safe performance of their duties and other work-related tasks
- the workplace policies, procedures, and programs to keep employees healthy and safe are current and still relevant
- the workplace health and safety committees or representatives, managers, and supervisors understand their duties regarding workplace injuries
- any workplace hazard reported by the committee, or representative, are addressed before and after a workplace or work-related injury happened
- a written report is submitted to the Labour Program 14 days after an employee has been injured
Employers and supervisors are placed on a different standard. For failure to comply with the law, they may face penalties such as fines and/or imprisonment.
When a work-related injury or incident occurred, here’s what the employee and employer should do:
1. Report to the employer or the committee
First, the injury or accident must be immediately reported to the employer, supervisor, or the health committee.
The injured employee must be given first aid and taken to the hospital immediately. If that is not possible, call for an ambulance.
The workplace health and safety committees or representatives will have to investigate the incident. This is without prejudice to the investigation that may be conducted by any government authority or regulatory body.
For this purpose, both employees and employers must safekeep all documents and evidence that would be helpful in these investigations.
Watch this video for an actual case of work-related injury and the investigation that followed:
To know more about investigations that may occur after an employee is injured at the workplace, consult a lawyer. For employees and employers in Québec City or in Montréal, contact a Lexpert-Ranked occupational health and safety lawyer in Québec.
3. Report to regulating authorities
An incident that caused injury or fatality to an employee must be reported to the appropriate government authority or regulatory body. This is to comply with the Canada Labour Code and the provincial laws on occupational health and safety.
This includes reporting to the WCBs of every province for employers that are not federally regulated.
Federally regulated workplaces:
- a report must be submitted to the Labour Program no later than 24 hours in case of death, serious disabilities, explosions, or machine-related disasters
- the workplace committee or representative must also submit a separate written report within 14 days to the Labour Program
Any other workplaces:
- Ontario: report to the WSIB within 3 days
- Québec: report to CNESST as soon as possible
- British Columbia: report to WorkSafeBC as soon as possible
- Alberta: report to WCB – Alberta within 72 hours
- Manitoba: report to WCB of Manitoba as soon as possible
4. Address the workplace hazard
Another action point in preventing any future injuries is to address the workplace hazard. The workplace health and safety committee’s or representative’s report will guide the employer on how to address these workplace hazards.
Protection of employees from being injured at the workplace is coupled with the different benefits that they are entitled to under the law.
Employees are entitled to the workers’ compensation, which will replace their net income earnings during the time that they cannot work. This is also why reporting to the provincial WCBs must be done right after an incident occurs.
Aside from wage replacement, injured employees who become disabled are also entitled to other benefits under workers’ compensation. These are also administered by the provincial WCBs.
These other benefits are:
- return-to-work assistance
- medical and therapeutic benefits
- permanent impairment awards
If a workplace is not covered by workers’ compensation, litigation for occupational health and safety charges may arise to protect the employees injured at the workplace.
This may happen if the injury is caused by the employer’s intentional misconduct or negligence in addressing the workplace hazards.
Other sources of compensation
Workers’ compensation may be coupled with disability benefits under these separate programs:
- Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefits
- Private insurance providers
The amounts that an employee receives from one may affect the other. Employees must consult with their employers or their lawyer for more information on the overlapping of these benefits.
To know more about the steps to take when an employee is injured at the workplace, consult with the best occupational health & safety lawyers in Canada as ranked by Lexpert.