Client Update: Who is a constructor?

Mark Tector and Richard Jordan

The Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Act (the “Act”) provides that “contractors” and “constructors” have similar, but not identical, responsibilities, with a “Constructor” having greater authority and more responsibility for the health and safety of those working “at or near a project”. Determining who is or who isn’t a “constructor” has not always been clear. However, two relatively recent decisions from the Nova Scotia Provincial Court have gone a long way in clarifying matters.

Both decisions stemmed from a September 2013 accident during the construction of a new building at Dalhousie University when an unsecured outrigger beam fell several floors and caused catastrophic injuries to a worker.

The first decision from 2016 involved the acquittal of McCarthy’s Roofing of four charges as a result of the accident: R. v. McCarthy’s Roofing Limited, 2016 NSPC 52. Stewart McKelvey provided this analysis with respect to Judge Derrick’s decision.

More recently, Aecon Construction Group was found guilty of breaching the Act and sentenced to a $35,000 fine (plus 15% victim surcharge) and a payment of $15,000 to the Nova Scotia Construction Safety Association so that they could prepare presentations regarding the proper safe assembly, disassembly, securing and storing of swing stages. Judge Lenehan’s 68-page decision found that Aecon was a constructor and it had breached the “general duty” provision of the Act, which required it to take every precaution reasonable to ensure the health and safety of a person at a workplace.

Judge Lenehan’s decision is significant for employers for two reasons:

  1. As noted above, the differences in responsibilities under the Act between a contractor and a constructor are a little unclear. Following McCarthy’s Roofing, the Aecon decision provides further guidance on how the Court will assess whether an entity is a constructor, which is defined in the Act as “a person who contracts for work on a project or who undertakes work on a project himself or herself.” Judge Lenehan explained:
    • The Court must look at the role of the alleged constructor on the project, both individually and in contrast to other persons on the project and examine their level of authority and responsibility for a project or workplace in the context of the other contractors on site.
    • Under the terms of Aecon’s contract with Dalhousie to act as Construction Manager, Aecon:
      – controlled the scheduling of work on the project;
      – monitored the progress of the work;
      – directed the work of the trade contractors and reviewed the
      latter’s performance;
      – was responsible for establishing and overseeing health and
      safety on the project.
    • There is nothing in the Act which says that there can be only one constructor on a project (a point which Judge Derrick first made in McCarthy’s Roofing).
  2. Judge Lenehan’s decision confirms that where an entity is charged with an offence under the general duty of the Act and the Crown proves that the entity has not taken every precaution reasonable in the circumstances, it has negated any due diligence defence.

Offences under the Act are strict liability offences so the defendant can generally try to establish on a balance of probabilities that it exercised due diligence. However, this was not open to Aecon because exercising “due diligence” means acting without negligence or taking all reasonable care. Therefore, the fact that the Crown had already proven that Aecon had not taken every reasonable precaution regarding the disassembly, securing and storing of the swing stage meant that Aecon could not seek to defend against the charge on the basis that it had taken all reasonable care.

What does this mean for you?

The clarification from the Court should assist employers in determining and understanding their OHS responsibilities at a workplace and on a project. Also, a key takeaway is to have a clear agreement in relation to any construction project and identification of each party’s status and responsibilities.

The foregoing is intended for general information only. If you have any questions about how this may affect your business, please contact a member of our Labour & Employment group.

SHARE

Archive

Search Archive


Generic filters
Filter by Custom Post Type

 
 

Client Update: Nova Scotia announces changes to defined benefit pension funding

March 13, 2019

Level Chan and Dante Manna On March 12, 2019, the Nova Scotia legislature introduced long anticipated amendments to the Pension Benefits Act (“PBA”) which, according to a statement by Finance Minister Karen Casey, are aimed…

Read More

Client Update: Supreme Court rules bankrupt companies cannot walk away from their environmental liabilities in Redwater decision

March 6, 2019

Julia Parent and Graham Haynes In the long-awaited decision in the case of Orphan Well Association v Grant Thornton Ltd, the Supreme Court of Canada held that end-of-life environmental cleanup obligations imposed by Alberta’s provincial…

Read More

Client Update: Richards Estate sets the limits on actions against LTD insurers

March 6, 2019

Michelle Chai & Jennifer Taylor Justice Ann Smith of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia recently dismissed an action against a disability insurer for being out of time. The case, Richards Estate v Industrial Alliance…

Read More

Client Update: Outlook for the 2019 proxy season

February 28, 2019

In preparing for the 2019 proxy season, you should be aware of some regulatory changes and institutional investor guidance that may impact disclosure to, and interactions with, your shareholders. This update highlights what is new…

Read More

Client Update: New regulation under New Brunswick’s Occupational Health and Safety Act tackles workplace violence and harassment – coming into force April 1, 2019

February 7, 2019

Chad Sullivan and Bryan Mills New Brunswick has recently introduced a new regulation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act on the topic of problematic workplace conduct. The change will bring New Brunswick in line…

Read More

Client Update: Not a “token gesture”: Nova Scotia Court of Appeal confirms deductibility of future CPP disability benefits from tort damages

January 18, 2019

Jennifer Taylor In an important decision for the auto insurance industry, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has confirmed that future CPP disability benefits are indeed deductible from damages awarded in Nova Scotia cases for…

Read More

Client Update: Change is the only constant – Bill C-86 changes in federal labour and employment regulation

January 18, 2019

Brian Johnston, QC and Matthew Jacobs Bill C-86, enacted as SC 2018, c. 27, will effect massive changes upon how federal labour and employment relations are regulated. They come into effect in 2019 with staggered…

Read More

2018 Year in Review: Atlantic Canada Labour & Employment Law Developments

January 17, 2019

We can all make 2019 a success by building on the year that was. For employers, 2018 was a year of many notable developments in labour and employment law across the country. We saw Ontario…

Read More

Client Update: Atlantic Canada pension and benefits countdown to 2019

December 28, 2018

Level Chan and Dante Manna As 2018 comes to an end, we countdown some pension and employee benefits developments in the last year that we anticipate may lead to developments in 2019. Discrimination in benefits…

Read More

Client Update: Canada’s Proposed Cannabis Edibles, Extracts and Topicals Regulations Revealed

December 21, 2018

Kevin Landry The first look at regulations for cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals has arrived. The Federal Government has opened a 60-day consultation period respecting the strict regulation of additional cannabis products. Notice of the consultation was accompanied…

Read More

Search Archive


Generic filters
Filter by Custom Post Type