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An administrative penalty is a fine against an employer for violations of the Workers Compensation Act (WCA) or the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (OHSR), for failure to comply with a WorkSafeBC order, for failure to take sufficient precautions to prevent work-related injury or illness, or for having an unsafe workplace or working conditions. Section 196 of the WCA sets out the specific circumstances in which WorkSafeBC can impose an administrative penalty.
There is no financial penalty that is adequate when lives are lost or workers suffer serious injuries. The main purpose of an administrative penalty is to motivate the employer receiving the penalty, and other employers, to comply with the health and safety requirements of the Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation. Publishing penalties is a deterrent and highlights the importance of making workplaces safe.
WorkSafeBC will consider imposing an administrative penalty in any of the following circumstances, as set out in Policy D12-196-1:
An administrative penalty will not be imposed if an employer exercised due diligence. Due diligence will be found if the evidence shows on a balance of probabilities that the employer took all reasonable care to prevent the violation.
The amount of an administrative penalty is based on the size of employer's payroll and the circumstances set out in Policy D12-196-6. This policy also provides that, in certain circumstances, penalties can depart from amounts based on payroll. Penalties are greater for violations that are high risk, those committed wilfully or with reckless disregard, or those where a worker has died or suffered a serious injury. Any costs saved or profit made by the employer through committing the violation may form part of the penalty amount. The maximum penalty amount is adjusted yearly; as of January 1, 2013, the amount is $603,347.68.
WorkSafeBC may sometimes collect from the employer all or a portion of the cost of a worker's claim as well as impose a penalty. Policy D24-73-1 sets out these circumstances and the maximum amount.
An employer can ask the Review Division of WorkSafeBC to review a penalty within 90 days of the decision to impose the penalty. The review may be in the form of "read and review" or an oral hearing. When the Review Division has completed the review, it will notify the employer of its decision. If the employer is unsatisfied with this decision, the employer can appeal further to the Workers Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT). A notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days of the Review Division's decision.
An employer, a worker, or a director may be prosecuted in provincial court for a violation of the Workers Compensation Act. The decision to prosecute is made by Crown Counsel where the case would serve the public interest and there is a substantial likelihood of conviction. However, if an administrative penalty is imposed on an employer, the employer cannot also be prosecuted in respect of the same facts and circumstances.
The Workers Compensation Act prevents workers or their survivors from suing the employer or other workers for a workplace injury, illness, or death. Under the Act (which came into effect in 1917), workers and their survivors acquired the right to receive timely compensation for work-related injuries or death, regardless of fault, and in exchange gave up their right to sue other workers and the employers who fund the "no fault" system. Seek legal advice for your own specific situation.