Homeowner Workplace Safety in a Website

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The reader may ask if there are legal liabilities and if there are serious consequences for not knowing what home owners are responsible for when work is conducted on their property then why are they not being told about it before hand? Considering the significance of the information would it not be reasonable to expect contractors, or the Government, to tell the public what they need to know?

These are the areas of concern that a home or property owner need to pay closer attention to. In the occupational health and safety act definitions of a contractor, constructor, and employer, it explains that these titles are not a position that a person can apply for as a job description. They are roles that the individual takes on when overseeing others at a workplace.

It would be, but unfortunately that is not the case. David Dahr, the author of Protection in a Handbook, spent several years asking organisations and government departments involved in the construction industry about their efforts to educate and protect the private sector, residential, home owner and those who primarily work in residential construction. David even appeared on television to bring attention to the subject. The failure by those involved to expand education and support to cover the residential sector is one of the factors that prompted David to write Protection in a Handbook.

In order to demonstrate the efforts put into encouraging the Government and others to better protect home owners and the lack of solid response, a sampling of relevant correspondence has been posted to this website. Below you will find a small sampling of letters in the electronic formats that we happen to have them in as well as the text of these letters inserted into this web page.

While everyone seems to generally agree on the importance of this subject, no one seems to want to be responsible for educating the public or taking other action to assist regular home owners. Nor does anyone seem to agree on who should take these responsibilities. Ultimately, your Member of Parliament and/or Member of your provincial/territorial Legislative Assembly needs to address these issues, but in the meantime you can assist yourself by reading Protection in a Handbook.

Please note that while most conversations David had on this subject were with the Government of Nova Scotia, his research as a safety consultant put him in touch with other governments and taught him that both the laws and the situation are similar throughout Canada.

Correspondence Archives

In 2009 a general election was held in Nova Scotia and a new government came to power. In January of 2010, David Dahr called a meeting with the new minister of the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Workforce Development, Marilyn More. In preparation for this meeting, David typed up a document to assist with the presentation. This document contained general notes and quotes from correspondences with others involved in the industry. A copy was provided for the minister and is provided for interested parties on this page and as a downloadable file in Portable Document Format (PDF) converted from a Word Document format file.

Jim LeBlanc, Director for the Occupational Health and Safety Division of Nova Scotia's Department of Labour and Workforce Development sent a letter to a number of different stake holders in the construction sector enquiring about the level of support that may exist for improving safety education in this sector. A copy of this letter is available as a PDF file from this website and the text of that letter is reproduced below.

The aforementioned Jim LeBlanc later wrote E. Grant MacDonald, an Associate Professor at Dalhousie University and workplace safety researcher who had worked with David Dahr in preparing a report for the Government of Nova Scotia entitled "Working Safely Today for a Better Tomorrow" as a follow up to his communications with the construction industry. This letter details the limited response by the industry. The text of the letter is reproduced below and an image scan of the original is also provided.

Meeting with the Minister

Presentation material used during a meeting with the Nova Scotia minister of Labour and Workforce Development. PDF conversion of Word Document file available. Text of document follows.

Jan. 18 / 2010

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your new appointment. I would also like to say thank you in acknowledging my on going interest and efforts to improve health and safety in the residential sector in the letter from your office on Nov. 24 / 09. This is a time for your government to lead by example and we are offering you our help.

We have a lot more in common than you realize. One of our most common traits is that we are both teachers. For well over a decade we have both listened to the public and have tried to assist them were we can. We have also put the peoples concerns above our own.

Over the past year both Dalhousie and myself have searched for concrete statistics that support our research in the issue we are going to discuss today. Some of these new statistics will be bought forward by Grant and Andy. In addition to the research we completed in 2008 we also decided to put one of our recommendations into action.

Although the research was passed on to the WCB and the construction industry stakeholders it was not a fair move. They have been and still are under the microscope in trying to find ways to improve workplace safety for those who they represent in their mission statement. Homeowners and independent contractors are not part of that mission statement and this burden is not except able to them. This would place an additional tax on what they are already over whelmed with.

On Nov. 25 / 09 Nancy McCready Williams of the WCB had an interview with Tom Murphy of the CBC. She claimed that the workplace safety culture is a critical challenge. This implies that they are dealing with an epidemic and until improvements are achieved their focus must stay were it is.

The issue I am addressing is similar but not included in part of their challenge that they are facing. This is why a separate program must be developed and put into action. This program will indirectly help them with the workplace cultural shift they are trying so desperately to achieve.

I would like to share with you some of my correspondences I have had with the previous government that you may not be aware of.

June 28 / 2000

Re: Responsibility of Property Owners

Property owners should be informed of their duties and responsibilities. This plan is included in our 2000 / 2001 priorities and should be completed March 2001

Stewart Sampson

Director of Central Services

Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour

Aug. 1 / 2000

RE: Occupational Health and Safety Act (OH&S) Act Requirements and Home Owners

The operational effect is that homeowners have a duty to act were they have the authority and ability, based on what they know or should have known.

In some cases these responsibilities will extend well beyond the traditional employer employee relationship.

Angus MacIsaac

Nova Scotia Minister of Environment and Labour

Due to the inability of the government to move forward on this issue I decided to take some action of my own. Out of these actions came my first publication, Protection in a Handbook , A Homeowners Reference Guide.

Feb. 28 / 2003

Your booklet as an educational tool is not currently within the mandate of the Occupational Health and Safety Division. In July of 2003 accident prevention and promotion would be transferred from our division to the W.C.B. This area would fall within their responsibility and mandate.

Jim Leblanc

Director, Occupational Health and Safety Division N.S.

Sept. 27 / 2005

Acknowledging Protection in a Handbook. I am pleased to receive in and know that it will prove a useful addition to the collection of Canada Housing Information Centre.

Leslie Jones


Canadian Housing Information Centre

Oct. 14 / 2005

Re: Protection in a Handbook

The time measured in years that you have worked on this document has demonstrated your commitment to the project and issue.

Your handbook will be a helpful addition to the resources that are available, in plain written language to homeowners and others who contract for services.

Jim LeBlanc

Director, Occupational Health and Safety Division

Oct. 11 / 2005

Subject: Protection in a Handbook

I believe any tool, that can improve understanding of OH&S duties and responsibilities by the homeowner and other buyers of residential services, should be given serious consideration.

It takes an incredible amount of effort to develop a product and introduce it to the market. When it is a message most don't want to hear, it's doubly hard.

Mike Kelly

Executive Director of Services

Nova Scotia Construction Safety Association

When we gave our presentation on the completion of the research on Sept. 08 support to the project was offered by those present at that meeting. The N.S.B.O. felt that they could play a more proactive role from the enforcement side of the issue. At the present time in the way they do their job they feel if they were to report the unsafe acts they witness every day that they could in some way be held liable or even sued much like the safety regulators of the N.S.D.O.L.W.D. When they turn a blind eye to these unsafe acts it is perceived by the residential building sector that this government agency is condoning these unsafe work practices. When I spoke with Jack Leedham a building official and Lyle Goldberg acting executive director with the Union of N.S. Municipalities they both agreed that Ted Ross was the individual to talk to. In a recent conversation with Jim LeBlanc he informed me that he could address these concerns quite easily and that it would not overly tax them on their task at hand. This could easily increase your safety enforcement with very little cost to the government and will not require new legislation or the policy changes. The N.S.C.C. also felt that new material on this issue could be entered into their trades classrooms.

The WCB has to base their facts and annual reports on statistics were they are made available. One of their questions was did we consider going to the emergency room records office to see if any records were kept to support this issue. In the early part of 2009 Jim Leblanc suggested that I should consider that request.

To satisfy my self this had to be done. The response to my request was as follows,

We have located no records responsive to your application. Capital Health District Health Authority does not have control or custody of records that would respond to your application.

Susan Jakeman

Privacy Officer

Capital Health June 29 / 2009

The emergency rooms only record workplace injuries when a W.C.B. claim is made all others fall between the cracks of society. Social Assistance does not keep records of a workplace injury. They only record it as an injured person. Other statistics on residential construction sites could fall under volunteers were as they are not required to follow the Occupational Health and Safety Act for they are exempt and it is not considered a workplace even though the dangers are the same. This would also provide them with much needed information.The majority of the residential sector are independent contractors and workers.To ask someone to provide you with factual statistics in this area is impossible in Canada and these are the reasons why these statistics are not available.

After the research was completed I decided with the help of Dalhousie to take action on one of the recommendations in the research of 2008. This was to provide homeowners with some one-page safety tips. I wrote the tips and Dalhousie's designers would lay them out and assist in the editing. I would then go to the local retail building supply companies and equipment rental companies and ask them to sponsor the safety tips with their logo on the bottom of the page. In turn they would receive the tips for free and hand them out to their customers for free. Four local businesses did this through the spring and summer of 2009.

David Wilson suggested that I should approach the Halifax Weekly News Paper and request for a column based on homeowner workplace safety.I was able to get twelve two hundred word columns in that local paper. It was called Dave Dahr's Home Sense and it ran from March to June 2009. The editor of the paper titled each of the columns I submitted. In addition to all of this Dalhousie and myself were able to bring national recognition to the research project through two national magazines, Home Builder Canada and OHS Canada. All of these things we done were done without any money changing hands.

In the spring of 2009 I was made aware of a new program the W.C.B. had started. It was called Silence Doesn't Work Here. I contacted the W.C.B. and spoke with Eleanor Whitty who passed me on to Steve MacDonald of Social Marketing. I thought that this might have something to do with the research project but it wasn't. He told me he was never aware of the project.

During this same period Jim LeBlanc suggested that I contact Stew Gorely at the Provincial Government Office. I spoke with him and he was unaware of the research project and passed me on to Madelin Babin. She was also unaware of the research and passed me on to Shawna Sequeria. Shawna tried to move the issue forward and talked with Margarie Davidson and at that point hit a wall and was unable to take it any further. This is another good reason why a program on safety for homeowners needs to be developed.

We realise that everyone is in an economical crises at this present time but that does not mean that this is not possible. When I listened to a statement made by our premier Darrel Dexter pertaining to the funding of the ferry in Yarmouth ( the Cat ). I gave thought to what we are proposing. I believe this is in the best interest of the general population and will not have a serious impact on the economics of the construction industry in a negative way. I would also suggest that the initial investment could be recovered many times over. This would be obvious in the Health Care System and Social Services. There are over 30,000 injured persons that are recorded by the WCB go through the Health care System every year. This does not include the independent contractor ( worker ) and volunteers.

These are the concrete proposals and will not require this government to make any new legislation or change any present policies;

1.Provide safety tips similar to the ones previously offered under the same terms and support them by the government in the same fashion that you support other agencies and organizations.

2.Create a Homeowner safety manual that they could purchase if they so desired. This would be a recoverable investment.

3.Create a safety manual for the mature independent contractor and worker that they could also purchase if they so desired to do. This would also reduce the amount of propaganda, which is fluent in the industry. The investment here is also recoverable.

4.Create a new manual that could be used in the trade schools that will include these types of information. This would be an investment into our students. Investment returns here is long term.

This new information should be written in plain language. It will make it much easier to understand by those individuals who have difficulty with the written word.

There was only one serious concern that was asked when I approached these organizations to sponsor the safety tips. That was could I be held accountable or liable if someone was to become injured after receiving these tips? I assured them that they could not and would not be held accountable but not everyone I spoke to believed me. This was the only reason they would not participate although they did believe that this was a good idea and wished me well.

Five questions were asked to those who sponsored the safety tips and this was their reply.

1.Did any of those who received the tips have a response to them as in Thank You?

Yes, very much appreciated by customers.

Most of the responses were more of a WOW I did not Know that and then we were thanked.

2.Did these tips raise other question from those who received them?

Not at this time, but associates did learn some tips that they were not aware of.

3.Would you provide your customers additional tips if they were given to you with the same arrangement?

For sure, they were welcome by all customers.

I would love to be able to provide more tips for my customers in regards to safety.

4.Were any of your customers who received the safety tips offended?

None were offended, all appreciated them.

Not a single person was offended and all left with more knowledge.

5.Homeowners over the recent years have become more proactive in their due-diligence on workplace safety. Do they welcome any information that is provided to them that will help in their decision making process?

Yes, they always welcome tips, services, etc.

I still feel we need to become more due-diligent in our safety at home as most do not know. Knowledge is power and if one person did one thing to save one person it's worth it.

I think that most homeowners would welcome more safety tips. As do it your self homeowners are becoming more prevalent. I think that it would be beneficial to let them know about things that they either have not been exposed to or simply never thought of.

The sponsors of the three safety tips are; Kent Building Supplies, Heflers Forest Products, Enfield Hardware and Bay Equipment Rentals.

The most recent events pertaining to workplace safety are unfolding in Ontario. The Ont. Construction Secretariat Patrick Dillion has called for a public enquiry into the deaths of four construction workers who fell thirteen stories. The fifth person suffered serious injuries and is in the hospital. This occurred on Dec. 24 /09 . This bought the total of construction deaths to sixteen in 2009. His reason for calling the public enquiry is because of the carnage in the construction industry and his focus was on the voiceless worker.

These fatalities are part of the very issue we are discussing today. When this enquiry is completed I believe it will expose that elephant in the room. This government has been given the opportunity to address these challenges and become a world leader.

When I spoke with Peter Stoffer on this issue he told me that you could file an application with the federal government that could also assist you. He would not go into detail with me but he suggested that he would be more inclined to do so with you.

I would like to offer my services to this Government under a contract under the non- solicited funding program. This would be to develop seven additional safety tips for the homeowner over this coming year. Meet with the retail building supply companies and equipment rental companies of Nova Scotia. Have them sponsor these tips and circulate them to their customers on your behalf.

I would also offer you my assistance in the development of these safety manuals as required.

Enquiry to Stakeholders

Letter from the Director for the Occupational Health and Safety Division to stakeholders available as a PDF file. Text of letter follows.

Nova Scotia Labour and Workforce Development
PO Box 697
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3J 2T8
File: 60000-30-96

April 7,2010

Mr. Rick Clarke
President, Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, CLC
3700 Kempt Road, Suite 225
Halifax, NS B3K 4X8

Re: Health and Safety in the Residential Construction Sector

Dear Mr. Clarke:

You may be familiar with the enclosed report Working Safely Today for a Better Tomorrow: Together Protecting Homeowners, Independent Contractors and Workers in Nova Scotia's Residential Construction and Renovation Sector which was produced in August, 2008. The report focuses on safety practices in the residential construction sector and provides a series of recommendations

The researchers recently approached Department with updated information and a request, which is enclosed, that more be done to address safety and injury prevention in the residential construction and renovation sectors. They suggested that we explore the possibility of a partnership with sector participants.

To assess degree of interest and support, we are prepared to oversee meeting of industry sector the participants to determine:(l) the level of support that may exist; (2) potential initiatives in which partners would be prepared to become involved; and (3) what resources could be committed by any partners.

With those question sin mind, I am writing to determine whether you, or a representative, would be prepared to attend an initial meeting. If so, and/or if you feel there are others who should be contacted, please provide the information to Mille MacCormack at 424-5402 or at maccorma@gov.ns.ca April 30, 2010.

When we have determined the level of interest, we will be in touch again to confirm the next steps.

Yours truly,

Jim LeBlanc


Occupational Health and Safety Division


cc: Mr. E. Grant MacDonald, Associate Professor, Continuing Education, Dalhousie University

College of Continuing Education, 1535 Dresden Row, Suite 201, Halifax, NS B3J 3Tl

Mr. Rick Clarke
Nova Scotia Federation Labour, CLC
3700 Kempt Road, Suite 225
Halifax, NS B3K 4X8

Mr. Cole Cordell
NS Mainland Building & Construction Trades
Suite 205
14 McQuade Lake Crescent,
Halifax, NS B3S 186

Ms. Carol MacCulloch
Construction Association of Nova Scotia
260 Brownlow Ave, Unit 3
Dartmouth, NS B3B 1V9

Mr. Cliff Murphy
CB Island Building & Construction Trades
238 Vulcan Avenue
Sydney, NS BIP 5X2

Mr. Ted G. Ross
Building Code Co-ordinator
Public Safety Division
NS Department of Labour & Workforce Development
5151 Terminal Road. 6th Floor, Halifax

Mr. Jack Leedham
Administrative Officer
NS Building Officials Association
PO Box 50017
Dartmouth, NS B2Y 452

Mr. Don Sherwood President
Atlantic Building Supply Dealers Association
70 Englehart Street
Dieppe, NB ElA 8H3

Mr. Ron Farrell
Dean, School of Trades and Technology
Nova Scotia Community College
PO Box 2210
Halifax, NS B3J 3C4

Nova Scotia Health Promotion and Protection
PO Box 487
Halifax, NS B3J 2R7

Mr. Ron Wells, Co-Chair
OHS Advisory Council
PO Box 697
Halifax, NS B3J 2T9

Mr. Arnold Jones
Executive Officer
NS Association of Realtors
Dartmouth, NS B3B 1W4

Mr. Bruce Collins
Executive Director
Nova Scotia Construction Safety Association
35 MacDonald Avenue
Dartmouth, NS B3B 1C6

Mr. Paul Pettipas
Chief Executive Officer
Nova Scotia Home Builders' Association
15A Oland Crescent
Halifax, NS B3S 1C6

Ms. Nancy McCready-Williams
Chief Executive Officer
Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia
PO Box 1150
Halifax, NS B3J 2Y2

J. Harris McNamara, Co-Chair
OHS Advisory Council
PO Box 697
Halifax, NS B3J 2T9

Ms. Carmelle d'Entremont
Acting Executive Director
Apprenticeship Training and Skill Development Division
NS Department of Labour & Workforce Development
2021 Brunswick Street,Halifax

Mr. Dermot Mulrooney
Director of Professional Practice
Engineers Nova Scotia
PO Box 129
Halifax, NS B3J 2M4

Mr. Ben Young
Atlantic Home Warranty Program
15 Oland Crescent
Halifax,NS B3S 1C6

Mr. Jim Donovan
Planning and Development Services
Halifax Regional Municipality
PO Box 1749
Halifax, NS B3J 3A5

Insurance Board of Canada
1969 Upper Water St., Suite 1706
Purdy's Wharf, Tower II
Halifax, NS B3J 3R7

Letter to Professor MacDonald

Image scan of letter regarding the industry response to these efforts. Text of this letter below.

Nova Scotia Labour and Workforce Development
PO Box 697
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3J 2T8
File: 60000-30-96

June 14, 2010

Mr, E. Grant MacDonald
Associate Professor, Continuing Education
Dalhousie University College of Continuing Education
1535 Dresden Row, Suite 201
Halifax, NS B3J 3Tl

Dear Mr. MacDonald:

As you are aware, we had written to a number of organizations which have an interest and involvement in the residential construction sector to determine the level of interest in proceeding with an occupational health and safety initiative. We provided the original report, the update and your earlier letter as background information.

From the perspective of the industry partners, the response has been limited. Only one organization outside government indicated, on behalf of their group, that they would be prepared to participate in additional coordinated effort. The response from within government also seemed to suggest that when there is an opportunity to align a program or parts of a program, that should be done.

Based on the response we have received, it is unlikely that we could successfully find inter-agency or inter-organization initiatives. At this point, l am not sure if you think there may be something else that could be done from your end to increase the level of interest, but I would be interested in hearing any thoughts you may have.

For our part, we will continue with our inspection and enforcement programs in the residential construction sector. When we see opportunities, we will, as always, try to capitalize on them.

Thank you again for your ongoing interest in this issue.

Yours truly,

Jim LeBlanc,


Occupational Health and Safety Division


cc: Marjorie Davison, Director of Policy, NSLWD

Andrew Cochrane, Dean, Dalhousie University College of Continuing Education

David Dahr, Occupational Health and Safety Consultant, 339 Patton Road, Upper Sackville, NS, B4E 3C2