On December 24, 2007, a guest at Blue Mountain Resorts died while swimming in an unattended pool at the resort. When Blue Mountain did not report the incident to the Ministry of Labour, an Inspector concluded that this was a breach of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”), which requires the reporting of any death or critical injury which occurs in a “workplace”. Both the Ontario Labour Relations Board (the “Board”) and the Divisional Court concluded that the failure to report the incident to a Ministry of Labour Inspector was a breach of the Act because the unattended pool constituted a “workplace”, even though there were no workers present at the time.
At issue on appeal was whether a swimming pool at a resort, and by extension, other areas only intermittently frequented by workers, would fit the definition of “workplace” under the OHSA and require reporting of any death or critical injury to the Ministry of Labour.
In setting aside the decisions of the Divisional Court and the Board, the Court of Appeal stated that giving such a broad interpretation to “workplace” under the OHSA would make virtually every place in the province of Ontario a “workplace” because a worker may, at some point in time, be at that place.
The Court of Appeal noted, by way of example, that this interpretation of “workplace” would lead to absurd results, requiring notice to the Ministry of Labour where:
In other words, the Court of Appeal concluded, this interpretation would lead to the absurd conclusion that every death or critical injury to anyone, anywhere in the Province, whatever the cause, would have to be reported. To avoid this absurdity, the Court of Appeal concluded that a proper interpretation of the OHSA is that the reporting obligations only trigger where:
In the case of Blue Mountain, the Court of Appeal concluded that there was no evidence that the swimming pool death had been caused by any hazard that could affect the safety of a worker.
If you have any questions about the implications of this decision on reporting obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, or any other questions relating to workplace law, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.
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