Bill C-45 is federal legislation that amended the Canadian Criminal Code and became law on March 31, 2004. The Bill established new legal duties for workplace health and safety, and imposed serious penalties for violations that result in injuries or death. The Bill provided new rules for attributing criminal liability to organizations, including corporations, their representatives and those who direct the work of others. .
Bill C-45 added Section 217.1 to the Criminal Code which reads:
"217.1 Every one who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task."
Bill C-45 also added Sections 22.1 and 22.2 to the Criminal Code imposing criminal liability on organizations and its representatives for negligence (22.1) and other offences (22.2).
Bill C-45, also known as the "Westray Bill", was created as a result of the 1992 Westray coal mining disaster in Nova Scotia where 26 miners were killed after methane gas ignited causing an explosion. Despite serious safety concerns raised by employees, union officials and government inspectors at the time, the company instituted few changes. Eventually, the disaster occurred.
After the accident the police and provincial government failed to secure a conviction against the company or three of its managers. A Royal Commission of Inquiry was established to investigate the disaster. In 1998, the Royal Commission made 74 recommendations. The findings of this commission (in particular recommendation 73) were the movement that led to Bill C-45.
Bill C-45 (Section 217.1 in the Criminal Code):
These provisions of the Criminal Code affect all organizations and individuals who direct the work of others, anywhere in Canada. These organizations include federal, provincial and municipal governments, corporations, private companies, charities and non-governmental organizations.
Police and crown attorneys enforce Bill C-45. The police and crown are responsible for investigating serious accidents and will determine whether any charges should be laid under the Canadian Criminal Code. The criminal code is a very different set of rules, and should not be confused with "regular" occupational health and safety laws (OH&S) and how they are enforced.
Depending on your jurisdiction, the Ministry (or Department) of Labour or Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) enforces OH&S laws. Across Canada each province, territory and the federal government are responsible for enforcing their own individual set of occupational health and safety laws. Each jurisdiction employs inspectors who visit workplaces to ensure companies are complying with their OH&S rules. In the unfortunate event of a serious accident, these inspectors conduct an investigation and determine if a charge should be laid under the appropriate section(s) of the OH&S act or regulation. An accused individual or company may then need to appear in court where a fine or other penalty could be imposed if they are convicted. The police are not normally involved in this process.
No. Bill C-45 is a separate piece of legislation that applies to the Canadian Criminal Code only. It does not intrude upon, or override, other existing federal, provincial or territorial occupational health and safety statutes and regulations. In the event of a conviction; however, Bill C-45 does require the courts to look at any penalties imposed by other jurisdictions in determining a sentence.
Yes, it is possible. It is common practice for both police and health and safety inspectors to both investigate a serious workplace accident. In most cases, the police and provincial authorities would work together to decide which charges should be made. While it is unlikely that two sets of charges would be made, technically speaking, charges can be laid under both the criminal code by the police and the Occupational Health and Safety Act or regulations by provincial authorities. This situation has occurred in the Millennium Crane Rentals case from Sault Ste Marie, ON.
It is unclear at this time. To date we are only aware of four cases where individuals were charged under the new provisions in the Criminal Code. In one case a conviction was secured, two cases are still before the courts, and one was dropped.
Note: At the time the law was being discussed in parliament, the government commented on its intentions for the Bill stating that:
"the criminal law must be reserved for the most serious offences, those that involve grave moral faults... the Government does not intend to use the federal criminal law power to supplant or interfere with the provincial regulatory role in workplace health and safety"
These comments may serve to help guide authorities in their application of the law, but they do not in of themselves constitute the law. Once a law is passed, it is up to the police, crown attorneys and the courts to interpret and apply the law based on the Criminal Code and previous cases under common law.
Yes. To date there have been four cases where charges have been laid, though, only one case resulted in a conviction. Of the others, two are still before the courts and one case was dropped.
On February 11, 2010 Sault Ste Marie Police charged the owner of Millennium Crane Rentals and the crane operator with criminal negligence causing death after a municipal worker was killed while working in an excavation hole. The accident occurred on April 16, 2009 at an excavation site where sewage work was being performed. The crane toppled and fell into the hole killing the worker.
On March 17, 2008 a paving company (Transpave) was charged and convicted of criminal negligence and fined $100,000 in the death of an employee. The conviction was based on the new provisions of Bill C-45 in the Criminal Code of Canada.
On May 17, 2007, Mark Hritchuk, a Service Manager at a LaSalle, Quebec auto dealership was charged with criminal negligence after one of his employees caught on fire while using a makeshift fuel pump that had gone unrepaired and broken for several years. Mr. Daoust, a 22 year employee with the company, was engulfed in flames after a spark ignited fuel which had spilled on him, while he attempted to fill the gas tank of a vehicle whose fuel gage had broken and needed repairing. The employee survived but received third degree burns to 35% of his body. The case was brought before a court of inquiry on March 10, 2009. No further details about the outcome of the inquiry have been reported.
On April 19, 2004 near the city of Newmarket, Ontario a worker was killed after the ground around him collapsed while digging a ditch at a residential construction site. The construction site supervisor was charge under section 217.1 of the Criminal Code with one count of criminal negligence causing death. In March 2005 the charges of criminal negligence against the site supervisor were dropped in an apparent plea bargain which saw the supervisor agree to three of eight charges under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Employers can limit their liability and reduce the chances of being charged under the provisions of the Criminal Code by implementing an effective workplace health and safety program.
You will want to know:
You will also want to ensure employees are aware of the company's health and safety program, are informed of any risks, and receive appropriate training and protective equipment.
Below are some OSH Answer documents that may help. You may also want to consider hiring a health and safety consultant to assist you with this process.
Elements of a Health and Safety Program
For further information, review our Health and Safety Programs section of OSH Answers.
Document last updated on September 3, 2010