February 7, 2019
WorkSafeBC has recently issued an administrative penalty in the amount of $646,305.00 for a failure to comply with the occupational health and safety provisions of the Workers Compensation Act (the “WCA”).
This marks the largest administrative penalty in British Columbia history under the legislation. Unfortunately for taxpayers, the penalty has been issued against the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital – a government funded organization.
The fine was in response to two separate incidents in the spring of 2018 in which mentally ill patients assaulted nurses. WorkSafeBC investigated and found that the Hospital had failed to consistently enforce existing policies as well as “failed to ensure the safety of workers through adequate risk assessments, policies and procedures, and training to prevent incidents of violence to workers”.
The penalty amount was influenced by virtue of Forensic Psychiatric Hospital’s record. The hospital is a repeat offender, and has been fined by WorkSafeBC multiple times in recent years, including in relation to a similar incident in 2014 (to the tune of $75,000). This, along with other considerations such as the nature of the violation is taken into account by WorkSafeBC when a penalty is issued.
The WCA expressly prohibits administrative penalties from exceeding $662,102.49. To date, this maximum penalty amount has not been reached.
Employers across British Columbia should take this recent development as a stark reminder that the failure to implement and/or enforce safety policies and procedures can have serious reputational, financial and human repercussions. It is critical that employers remain compliant with the occupational health and safety requirements applicable at their worksites.