Appeal court ruling upholds previous health and safety order

Those working at Bell Canada will be provided with proper equipment and personnel trained to operate it whenever workers are performing their duties in confined spaces, a recent appeal court decision says.

The ruling not only upholds an earlier health and safety inspector’s order but expands it to cover all confined spaces.

The original complaint came in 2007 when two workers employed by Bell to lay fibre optic cable were killed by a toxic atmosphere in a confined space, in this case the bottom of a vault.  Bell admitted to violating the Canada Labour Code and were fined $280,000 for a health and safety violation.

The appeal ruling orders Bell to ensure there are specially designed tripods at the confined space opening, along with a worker who knows how to operate the tripod in case they should have to retrieve a worker.

Bell must also have a plan in place for directing rescue calls in the event something happens at the job site. The company must ensure responders are equipped with the specified rescue equipment and track response times. If there is work to be done in remote areas, the employer must determine whether alternative arrangements are needed.

The decision will help ensure the safety of workers in the industry, says Unifor Local 52. The union is Canada’s largest in the private sector, representing more than 305,000 workers, including 30,000 in telecommunications.

“We look forward to working with the company to implement this decision,” said Doug Dutton, president of the union and the Unifor/Bell Health & Safety Resource for Ontario.