Preventing Accidents in the Workplace Using Due Diligence

Posted by Jennifer Abraham on

Due Diligence, a term many of us have heard time and time again but what does it really mean and how does it apply to you? Jennifer Abraham, our Honeywell Canada Training Manager and Subject Matter Expert shares her point of view.

What is Due Diligence?

Due diligence is the level of judgement, care, prudence, determination, and activity, that a person would reasonably be expected to do under particular circumstances.

Applied to occupational health and safety, due diligence means that employers shall take all reasonable precautions, under the particular circumstances, to prevent injuries or accidents in the workplace. This duty also applies to situations that are not addressed elsewhere in the occupational health and safety legislation. Reasonable precautions are also referred to as reasonable care. It refers to the care, caution, or action a reasonable person is expected to take under similar circumstances.

The jurisdiction you work in and the standards and legislation/regulations that you follow will determine the consequences for noncompliance or the inability to demonstrate Due Diligence duties have been fulfilled.

Lack of Due Diligence, In Some Areas, Can Lead to Serious Offences

For Example: In Canada, March 31, 2004, a bill was passed becoming law regarding Due Diligence. It is now Federally Legislated and amended the Canadian Criminal Code (Section 217.1), it states:

Everyone who undertakes or has the authority to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person or any other person arising from that work or task.

The Act also changed other parts of the Criminal Code

  • It provides a means to hold Corporations and Organizations criminally liable for negligence because of the actions or inactions of their senior managers.
  • It created a new duty and standard of care for those who direct the work of others.
  • The amendment also added sections to the Criminal Code imposing criminal liability on organizations and its representatives for negligence and other offences.

In this case, employers and supervisors can be fined and serve jail time for not actively participating in Due Diligence to protect the health and safety of their workers.

How do you demonstrate Due Diligence?

To effectively demonstrate Due Diligence, you must take all reasonable precautions in the circumstances to carry out your work and your health & safety responsibilities.

This is the standard of care to comply. Effective supervision and a common goal of safety planning and compliance are key elements of due diligence.

All elements of a "due diligence program" must be in effect before an accident or injury occurs.

Establishing Due Diligence Include Several Criteria:

The employer should have in place written OH&S policies, practices, and procedures. These policies, etc. would demonstrate and document that the employer carried out workplace safety audits, identified hazardous practices and hazardous conditions and made necessary changes to correct these conditions, and provided employees with information to enable them to work safely.

One of the largest areas of responsibility an employer has when it comes to worker safety is training. This training must address the health and safety risks associated with the specific tasks assigned to the worker.

The employer should have in place written OH&S policies, practices, and procedures. These policies, etc. would all the employer to demonstrate due diligence, it is essential that they be able to provide written documentation of their health and safety activities that include, but are not limited to:

  • Worker orientation, education, and training.
  • Workplace inspections, including corrective actions taken.
  • Accident / Incident reports, including corrective actions taken.
  • Supervisor notes (e.g., supervisor inspections, meetings with workers or contractors regarding safety, etc.).
  • Health and safety committee meeting minutes.
  • Equipment logbooks and maintenance records.
  • Emergency response procedures and drills.
  • Instructions or safe work procedures, including any changes.
  • Forms and checklists used when following safe work procedures (e.g., confined space entry permits).
  • Sampling and monitoring records of exposure testing.
  • Statistics for the frequency / severity of injuries, etc.
  • Enforcement of health and safety rules and procedures.

If employers have questions about due diligence, they should seek legal advice for their jurisdiction to ensure that all appropriate due diligence requirements are in place before an event.

Remember, due diligence is demonstrated by your actions before an event occurs, not after.

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