Employers, managers and supervisors have a personal responsibility defined under federal and provincial legislation to provide a safe working environment for those under their supervision.
This responsibility moves all the way up the chain of command but starts at the “ground floor”, with anyone who has others under their direct supervision. In addition, employees have their own set of responsibilities and are required to follow the safety requirements established for their workplace, but this article focusses on the legal responsibilities of anyone who is responsible for the supervision of others.
(Warning: legal concepts ahead.)
Responsibilities Of A Supervisor To Provide Training: Consider Duty-of-Care and Standard-Of-Care
Supervisors, managers and business owners are under what is called a “duty-of-care” (legal concept #1), which is a universal legal concept meaning legal obligation.
Their legal obligation is to adhere to the “standard-of-care” (legal concept #2).
“Standard-of-care” refers to the degree of prudence, caution or reasonable care required of an individual while engaged in any activity that could potentially harm others.
Examples of this include an environmental manager assigning a fisheries technician to undertake sampling work in moving water, or a fire chief tasking members to rescue a snowmobiler who has fallen through a frozen lake or river. What are the responsibilities of the supervisor to provide training and other supports to this fisheries technician, or this firefighter? If a supervisor, employer or manager can be shown to have failed in their legal responsibility to adhere to the standard-of-care, they can be successfully prosecuted for “negligence” (legal concept #3).
When it comes to any type of training (but most obviously for high-risk environments like swiftwater and surface ice or any situation requiring the use of technical rope systems) fulfilling a duty-of-care means providing training that is widely known and accepted as appropriate (i.e. standard of care) for the given environment.
You, or one of your personnel might know a lot about moving water, or just have a lot of common sense gained from years of experience in the field. That person might even be willing to provide training free-of-charge for your department.
But if you aren’t a bonafide trainer with a recognized training company teaching a proven curriculum, then if you ever end up in court because of a liability action, it’s going to be difficult to prove you have adhered to the standard-of-care that fulfills your duty-of-care.
It might be possible to prove you’ve provided adequate training, but you will most likely spend a lot of time and money on legal bills before you manage to prove you have fulfilled your legal responsibilities to safeguard your personnel in the workplace.
The unfortunate truth is that at this point, companies or organizations can be exempt from prosecution if they can show that it was the responsibility of supervisors or managers to develop a safety program for those under their supervision. In this case, supervisors and managers can be held personally liable.
Scary, but true.
WCB and Federal Legislation
The legal concepts outlined above form the basis of both provincial and federal legislation governing occupational health and safety.
Supervisors need to start with these documents to further define supervisor responsibilities to provide training given their workplace and the jobs being performed. However, the legislation is purposefully “broad brush” because it must be applicable to so many different situations with so many variables at play.
If you search the legislation looking for required training and equipment for rivers, swiftwater, surface ice or situations requiring technical rope systems, you will come up with a very slim list of specific regulations. What you will find is broad statements such as “employers must provide to … workers the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure the health and safety of those workers in carrying out their work.” (Worksafe BC – BC Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act of 1998.)
Therefore, the onus is squarely on each individual supervisor to determine the potential hazards their personnel could face on the job and then develop a plan to mitigate those hazards through a combination of standard-of-care training, proper equipment, and written policies, procedures or guidelines. A comprehensive safety program like this will demonstrate “due diligence” (legal concept #4, in case you are still counting) or in other words, the fulfillment of the responsibility of the supervisor in meeting his duty-of-care.
However, if a supervisor outlines a safety program and is then told that there is no budget available or that employees cannot take time off their job for training, the responsibility would then shift to the superior who made that decision, and the supervisor would be seen to have fulfilled their duty-of-care.
Ideally, however, supervisors will work with their management team to educate them on the legal requirements for a comprehensive safety program and their personal liability for decisions affecting safety. Then, they will cooperate on the development of a solution that works from both a safety and financial perspective.
However, while federal and provincial legislation should provide the framework for the development of a comprehensive safety program, these lengthy documents can be difficult to navigate. We often get questions from employers and supervisors who are unclear where to start, and so we have provided excerpts of the most relevant sections of representative provincial WCB legislation as well as federal Jobs and Growth Act, 2012 in our Legislation, Regulations & Standards section. These excerpts should be used as a starting point for a more careful reading of the original documents, available online. Make sure to use the WCB legislation for your particular province.
Raven Courses Meet Responsibilities of Supervisor To Provide Training
The courses taught by Raven can help you meet your duty-of-care.
Developed and certified by Rescue 3 International, the global leader in technical rescue training, our courses are considered standard-of-care because they have been thoroughly reviewed and tested by rescue professionals, safety organizations and courts around the world. Rescue 3 course have been proven, time-and-time again, to provide the training required to properly prepare people to work in high-risk environments like swiftwater, surface ice and technical rope situations.
Rescue 3 International is not the only company that provides standard-of-care training, but it is the largest and by far the best-known in Canada and around the world. This is a solid reason in itself for choosing our courses. We count among our clients federal and provincial government departments, major environmental consulting and engineering firms and the top first responders in the country. In the event of any legal action, producing a certification by Rescue 3 proves that your training is among the very best available and is solid proof that you have exercised due diligence in fulfilling your duty-of-care obligations.