The Labour Relations Board has denied a request from Canada Royal Milk to circumvent a health and safety order. The decision comes after an employee filed a complaint against Canada Royal Milk for being in violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The situation arose after a workplace complaint prompted an inspector to attend the plant on January 11th, 2021. The Ministry of Labour inspector found Canada Royal Milk to be in violation of four separate OHSA regulations. The order is in relation to a “ships” ladder which are used to access the milk receiving area.
According to the inspector, the ladders were installed in a way that do not qualify them as stairs or a vertical ladder under the Ontario Health and Safety Act. “A ships ladder is not considered to be stairs, which are pitched at between 20 and 50 degrees, and they are not considered to be a vertical ladder,” wrote the Labour Relations board on March 3rd, 2021.
At the Labour Relations hearing, Canada Royal Milk argued that complying with the regulation would create a higher risk for workers. “Those ladders are safer than a vertical ladder given what is described as a wet and slippery working environment,” said Canada Royal Milk to the Labour Relations Board.
“The Orders, if executed, would require the installation of a vertical ladder which would create a higher risk to the workers in the milk receiving area than its own proposed modification to the existing ships ladders and adjacent platform.” said Canada Royal Milk.
Despite the assertions, Canada Royal Milk acknowledged that they were under violation of industrial regulations. The company says that training is conducted for staff who use the ladders and they received approval to install the ladders from an engineer as well as a Municipal Building Department.
Ultimately, the Labour Relations Board decided to deny the Canada Royal Milk’s request to suspend orders from a Ministry Inspector. “In this case, the Inspector issued an Order regarding the use of ship ladders which even Canada Royal Milk acknowledges do not comply with the regulation,” Vice-Chair Peigi Ross wrote on behalf of the Labour Relations Board. “There is no reason to interfere with an inspector’s order pending a full hearing on the application,” she added.
According to the decision, Canada Royal Milk still plans to appeal the Ontario Health and Safety regulations to the Ministry of Labour. However, they will be required to address the workplace inspector’s order in the meantime.
The employee’s complaint is one of many to come out from the baby formula plant. A recent CBC News report found that some employees who took the job at Feihe International’s Canadian subsidiary feel that the workplace isn’t safe and are worried someone could be killed.
Some employees reported that employees would be ask to work at high elevations without a training or safety harness. This would sometimes be done while carrying heavy equipment.
In response to the allegations, Mayor Bryan Patterson released a statement expressing concern. “I am very concerned to hear about the health and safety issues raised by employees at the Canada Royal Milk plant.” said Paterson. “Workers deserve to feel safe and supported every day and as Mayor I hold every employer in Kingston to that standard.”