Casual Legal: OHS investigations

By Anthony Purgas
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Service Provider

At this time of year, many municipalities’ public works departments consider changes to the nature of their work for the upcoming winter season. Given the activities and equipment involved, there is always a risk that a safety incident that requires intervention by Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) will occur.

An employer has an obligation, as per the OHS Act, to report an injury or incident to OHS in the following situations:

  • (a) Where the incident results in the death of a worker.
  • (b) Where there is reason to believe a worker will be hospitalized beyond treatment in an emergency room or urgent care facility. 
  • (c) An unplanned explosion, fire or flood that has the potential to or does cause serious injury or illness.
  • (d) The collapse or upset of a crane, derrick or hoist.
  • (e) The collapse or failure of any component of a building necessary for the structural integrity of the building.

In addition to immediately advising OHS of any of the incidents above, the employer (or prime contractor, if applicable) must do several things, including:

  • Avoid disturbing the scene of the incident, unless permitted to by an OHS officer or police officer, or in order to protect people and property endangered by the incident, or, in the cases of (c), (d) and (e) above, where no injury or illness arises; and
  • Investigate and prepare a report regarding the incident. They can hire a third party to do so, but employers must carry out their own investigation, even if OHS conducts a separate investigation.

Because these incidents are often traumatic and require immediate attention, it is important to ensure managers and certain personnel have adequate training in health and safety reporting, in addition to the more typical first aid training. It is also highly recommended that, in any instance where a death or chance of death or serious injury arose, the municipality obtain expert third-party assistance from a lawyer or health and safety consultant to navigate the potential liability.

To access Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Helpline, Alberta Municipalities members can call toll-free to 1-800-661-7673 or send an casuallegal [at] (email) to reach the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, please call 310-MUNI (6864) or send an riskcontrol [at] (email) to speak to Alberta Municipalities Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of Alberta Municipalities can access the Casual Legal Service.

DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.