BROCKTON – A report on health and safety requirements for contractors on municipal property was presented to council on June 22.
Council was asked to select one of three options outlined in a report by Chris Wells, director of fire and emergency services, and ended up voting in favour of bringing in a third party to ensure contractors meet the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act – option C.
Wells explained in his report that when the municipality hires a contractor to perform work on municipal property, the municipality falls under one of two designations under the act: owner or constructor. The latter has additional responsibilities should the municipality assume direct or indirect control through supervision of the contractor’s work.
Option A would be for the municipality to continue its present policy of naming contractors as constructors. Although this would lower the legal risk for the municipality, Brockton would still hold a large percentage of liability.
Option B entails the municipality auditing the contractor’s health and safety programs. This would involve a lot of staff time – more than is available with current staffing and expertise.
Option C would involve using a third party (Compliance Sync) to perform the auditing. Wells explained there would be no direct cost to the municipality, but companies bidding on municipal projects would account for fees paid to the company in the bids they provide.
He noted the company does not ask for private information. The requirement would apply to contractors doing work that falls under the definition of a “project” within the act.
Coun. Tim Elphick said he “had concerns” over options A and C, saying the need remains for “due diligence on the part of the municipality.”
Coun. Steve Adams commented that he “finds it hard to support option C” and doesn’t “see where the value is.”
Wells described the requirement as a way of “putting people on a level playing field” through using a third party. He said it’s difficult to make sure “every contractor has everything in order.” And it ensures no company brings in a low bid by “skimping on health and safety.”
Coun. Dean Leifso said he did support option C, saying, “Doing this is our due diligence.”
Also in support of option C were councillors Kym Hutcheon and James Lang.
Deputy Mayor Dan Gieruszak said it’s a complex issue that he described as being “an attempt to ensure a higher level of safety…to bring in a third party.” He added, “We can’t be experts at everything. At the end of the day, we’re still liable; this is an attempt to share responsibility.”
Mayor Chris Peabody referred to a letter that went out on June 1.
Wells acknowledged, “The roll-out was poorly done.” He explained it wasn’t clear about different types of businesses. However, he said, “It’s still the right thing.”
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times