Employers have a duty to provide their employees with a safe work environment. Section 21 of the Workers Compensation Act states that employers must remedy any workplace condition that is hazardous to the health or safety of their employees.
It is therefore prudent for employers to conduct assessments of their employees’ working conditions and ensure that adequate precautions are taken to identify and eliminate workplace hazards.
WorkSafeBC has provided guidance on due diligence measures that may be undertaken by employers in order to identify and eliminate potential hazards before they arise. Click here for access to the full checklist.
What is Due Diligence
In the event of a workplace accident, an assessment will be undertaken to identify the steps that were taken to identify and eliminate the cause of the accident before it happened. This process is known as due diligence. The employer must take reasonable and prudent measures to identify risks. This threshold is higher than the measures that would be taken by an “average person”. It requires taking measures that are suitable or rational given the particular situation. The measures that should be taken are typically assessed on a case-by-case basis. In each case, the degree of risk imposed by particular circumstances will be considered. Where a given scenario imposes a higher degree of risk of injury, it is “reasonable and prudent” to impose more stringent safety measures in order to prevent workplace injuries.
Conducting Due Diligence
Due diligence occurs before an incident. Appropriate due diligence measures may include:
- Providing supervisors with appropriate workplace health and safety training;
- Implementing occupational health and safety practices and procedures (including regular audits to identify hazardous conditions); and
- Soliciting feedback from employees about unsafe conditions or activities.
Employers should ensure that any workplace health and safety program that is adopted is appropriate in the circumstances. Specifically, the program should clearly identify areas of risk and the measures taken to mitigate or eliminate the possibilities of workplace injuries. This program should be also be regularly reviewed and updated.
If you have questions about your occupational health and safety obligations, we welcome you to contact one of our lawyers.