Pulp and Paper Canada

Due Diligence for Supervisors

February 1, 2008  By Pulp & Paper Canada

More than a decade ago, the Supreme Court of Canada created the defense of due diligence in a decision involving the city of Sault Ste. Marie, ON. While that case was not an occupational health and sa…

More than a decade ago, the Supreme Court of Canada created the defense of due diligence in a decision involving the city of Sault Ste. Marie, ON. While that case was not an occupational health and safety case, the concept that it created has important implications for employers concerned with health and safety in their workplace.

However, due diligence is much more than just a legal concept. It is a standard by which employers can judge the content and effectiveness of their health and safety programs. By applying due diligence to workplace health and safety, not only will the standards of health and safety in the workplace be improved, but workplace parties will also provide themselves with a defense in the event of charges under Occupational Health and Safety legislation.


Supervisors are vulnerable as more charges are being laid and fines and penalties are going up. Supervisors are also now seeing jail terms. A British Columbia supervisor was jailed for 45 days as his punishment upon conviction, for failure to take all reasonable care, in the operation of equipment that resulted in a fatal workplace injury.

Supervisors have very specific health and safety responsibilities. If you’re a supervisor, take the following quiz to assess if you’re meeting your health and safety responsibilities and leadership challenges effectively.

Supervisor Due Diligence Self Evaluation

• •Do you understand the nature of the work that your people are doing?

• •Do you fully understand the hazards and risks associated with the work you’re directing?

• •Are you clear about who you are responsible for as a supervisor (contractor’s employees, people moving hrough your area, etc.)?

• •Are you clear about the boundaries of the physical area of which you are in charge?

• •Are you familiar with the regulations that apply to the kind of work you supervise?

• •Do you know which employer rules, procedures, policies, etc., apply to your area, and the work you upervise?

• •Do you understand what authority and responsibility for health and safety has been delegated to you by our own manager?

• •Do you know how frequently and in what manner you will have to account to your manager for delegated uthority and responsibility for health and safety?

• •Do you routinely inspect the workplace you are in charge of (not waiting for the committee or others to do t ‘for you’) getting to the root causes of problems you find?

• •Do you investigate close calls, incidents and loss events, as opposed to paying attention only to the high-severity ccidents; again, seeking the root causes of problems?

• •Do you ensure that new people are trained before they begin?

• •Is refresher training done frequently enough and on your own initiative?

• •Do you reinforce training with safety talks of various kinds, particularly safety talks at the worksite (such as ailgate or toolbox talks)?

• •Do you “go see” i. e. job observation; as opposed to waiting for your people to call? (and remember, they ever call you to tell you they are taking a short-cut)

• •Are you encouraging people to bring problems to you and to not cover-up their mistakes?

• •Are you sensitive to events that increase risk, such as novelty and high energy activities, and allocate your fforts at risk reduction accordingly?

• •Do you do task analysis, job planning (and similar analyses) so as to avoid learning by trial and error with ew equipment, processes and materials?

• •Do you attempt to eliminate obstacles to the use of protective devices?

• •Are you realistic when setting tasks and allocating resources, so that people do meet targets safely?

• •Do you enforce standards and rules through discipline where necessary (and almost always as a last resort, fter education, persuasion and obstacle removal)?

• •When delegating work, are you clear about the health and safety delegation (clear expectation about health nd safety performance)?

• •Do you hold your people accountable for delegated work involving health and safety on a regular basis?

• •Do you take action when you learn of hazards not covered by your existing activities and procedures (i. e. not resting on your “pro-active laurels” but always vigilant)?

• •Are you a creative problem solver when it comes to novel health and safety concerns (not just a rule follower r rule enforcer)?

• •Do you take health and safety problems that are outside of your jurisdiction, or beyond your ability to solve, o senior people?

• •Do follow up on reported and outstanding hazards?

• •Is safety information regularly communicated and posted?

• •Is disciplinary action for safety violations documented?

“No” answers need to be addressed.

*Quiz adapted from a “Supervisor Due Diligence Checklist” by Peter Strahlendorf, School of Occupational and Public Health, Ryerson Polytechnic University

Cindy Hunter is the program/communication specialist, Pulp & Paper Health and Safety Association. (chunter@pphsa.on.ca)

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