Thursday, March 14, 2013

OHSA conviction of farm operation upheld on appeal

An employee of a chick hatchery operation was injured when she fell climbing down from a storage trailer used to house paper liners used in shipping crates.  The employee broke her leg.  The hatchery was charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing "to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that adequate access and/or egress was provided for a transport storage trailer".  The hatchery was convicted at trial and appealed the conviction.

Justice Nadel of the Ontario Court of Justice upheld the conviction, finding that, "while the set of steps may once have worked well and may once have been adequate to their purpose that was no longer the case after the trailer had been moved. ... A gap of two feet between rungs of a ladder or a rise of two feet between the treads of a set of steps is, in my view, self-evidently unsafe.  Likewise, a gap of two feet between the top of a set of steps and the platform those steps are intended to give access to is equally self-evidently unsafe and inadequate to the purpose."

The defendant had taken the position on the appeal that, "there is no offence known to the law of Ontario that requires an employer in a farming operation to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that adequate access and/or egress is provided for a storage facility where the employee's task requires her to work at a height that is less than three metres" (as paraphrased by Justice Nadel).  This was rejected by the Court.

Read the decision at: Ontario (Ministry of Labour) v. Stratford Chick Hatchery Ltd.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

NOVA/TransCanada withdraws application to "decommission" 266 km line

In August, 2012, NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd. (part of TransCanada Pipelines) applied to the National Energy Board (NEB) for permission to "decommission" a 266-km stretch of pipeline.  Essentially, the application would see the abandonment of the line in place, but NOVA contended that it was "decommissioning" the line because service on its "pipeline" would continue.  The NEB disagreed and directed that it would consider the application as one to abandon a pipeline.

On February 8, 2013, NOVA wrote to the NEB to withdraw its application, saying that it was reviewing its proposal in light of the NEB's comments: February 8, 2013.  The NEB confirmed this development in its letter to NOVA dated February 25, 2013.

Landowners should keep an eye on these developments.  It appears that pipeline companies are taking the position that, as long as they continue to transport materials somewhere on their pipeline systems, none of their abandonments are actually "abandonments" within the meaning of the NEB Act.  Instead, the companies will suggest that they are "decommissioning" pipelines, depriving landowners and other interested parties from public hearings, participant funding, etc.