Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Windex could kill you, if the WSIB doesn't get to you first

Thanks to Comic Book Lady for contacting the London Fog. It is regrettable that citizens are not required to complete a household safety test complete with their census form. Just imagine the job opportunities!!:

July 25, 2006

My husband and I own a small comic book and game store. We've been in business for 15 years and have gone from family-run to hiring part-time employees on a regular basis. Currently we have 3 other employees. One clerk is almost full-time and the other 2 work a 5 hour shift each.

Last October (2005), I received a letter from Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) and due to "a mutual agreement, the WSIB and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) have started to share information to enable both organizations to track the registration status and accounts of employers." They discovered that we were not registered with the WSIB.

Please note, we didn't know we had to be. We thought Workman's Comp was for the construction industry, not for small retail stores. Maybe this happened at the same time they changed the name to WSIB? Nothing like a name change to swallow a few departments and expand their range of power, I guess.

We were ordered to pay WSIB assessed from 2002 plus interest. We paid it, over $600, almost a half of a month's rent, and now we must remit on a quarterly basis. Fortunately, even though my husband and I are employees of our corporation, we only have to pay for our other employees, as we do not qualify for WSIB or Employment Insurance benefits.

In May 2006, I received a "Notice of Meeting". I was "required" to attend an "Employer Orientation Session" as part of my registration process on June 6, 2006. It was in the south end of town at 8 AM (ugh). I don't own a car (I walk to work), so I would have had to take the bus or a taxi and I would have had to get an employee to come in and work for me. It would have killed my morning, what a waste of time, couldn't they just mail me the info? They also had the nerve to advertise it as "NO COST TO YOU"! I was asked "to confirm my attendance" (I thought it was required?) with my Customer Service Representative. Customer Service Representative? Like I chose them? Is that what they call prison guards now? Customer Service Representatives!? They also asked me to fill out an attached questionnaire that would get me thinking about safety in my workplace.

The questionnaire included such mind-numbing questions as:

-Do we have a signed and dated policy statement that accurately reflects our commitment to health and safety? [yes, somewhat, no, action]....I tell my employees not to hurt themselves on my day off, does that count?

-Do we have a Joint Health & Safety Committe or a Health & Safety Representative in place? [yes, somewhat, no, action]...uh yeah...I'll get right on it...Uh oh all 3 of my employees want to be the Rep, maybe we should hold an election and vote, that is the democratic way.

Needless to say I did not go.

This week we received our 2nd phone call regrding our lack of attendance at the required meeting. We've been informed that we are obliged to make our employees take a Workplace Hazardous Materials Information Session (WHMIS) test. Hazardous Materials? ( this is a small comic book store!) It only costs $33 per employee for the online test (only?) . That's cheaper than $100 if they had to go to the test or $700 if they have to send someone. (How about $0, since I am obliged to force my employees to take it) I understand your frustration, she said. (hmf) I asked what hazardous materials are there in a store? Do you have printer toner? (?) Windex (????) I told her I would warn the staff about the dangerous Windex. "You do not have to be rude with me, Ma'am". I didn't think I was being rude. "You were sarcastic" (Me, a comic book store owner...who would have thought.) She quickly ended the call but left me with a website to go to.

I have since found out that at least 2 of my employees have taken the WHMIS test. Great that lets me off the hook!...Uh, no, not exactly, one of my employees has taken it 7 times, for each new employer and when he worked through a temp agency. The other took it in school, but still had to take it when he got a job....So really the test doesn't matter, it can't be transfered from job to job. It is just a way for them to collect money from employers. It's a tax grab. It's about the government saying jump and me saying how high....well forget that I'm saying WHY?!!!

July 29, 2006

Well, well, well, I've just found out that it was not the government who called but a private company trying to sell me the online test.

Still, they did not make that clear when they called and they kept telling me that I had to make my employees take this test. I spoke to another comic book retailer who also has been forced to pay into WSIB recently. I asked him if he went to the meeting required. He said no. He didn't get the phone call but he got a rather urgent letter in the mail to buy these tests. But it seemed more apparent that this was a private company but they tried to make it seem that if we didn't buy these tests, we could be inspected by the 200 new inspectors the Ministry of Labour had hired "to ensure all small and medium businesses are complying with the safety training responsibilities. With the increase in the Ministry of Labour's enforcement staff, you will not be able to avoid the consequences if your WHMIS training is not up to date." Do not delay. Order now, etc,etc. Later it explains WHMIS:

"Many companies are under the misconception that WHMIS only applies to industrial operations. This is untrue, there are many products used in an office environment that fall under the WHMIS criteria. Products such as whiteout, copy toner, cleaning supplies, fire extinguishers and any other products that carry a hazard symbol fall under the WHMIS legislation. It is law that every employee that has the potential to come in contact with these products receives basic WHMIS training in order to recognize and understand these symbols and the risks and procedures when handling them. Every workplace in Canada must provide WHMIS training for their employees."


Pietr said...

Make the guys your butlers.

Mike said...

Talk about a "protection" racket.

"Saaay, dis is a nice stoah ya got goin heah, lady. But it looks kine a dangerous, to da train'd eye, if ya catch my drift.

"Da boss sent us roun' to make shooah t'ings is safe fo ya. He wouldn't want some'n'... bad... to happen to you or any of your employees. Me anna boys would shooah hate ta t'ink of ya gettin' hoit here in ya stoah, wouldn't we fellas?"

Anonymous said...

You might want to suggest to these vultures (through a news conference for maximum impact) that due to the escalating and unsustainable costs being imposed on you by the WSIB you are being forced to lay off your part time employees.

If you have a large group of other small business owners in similar situations standing with you and itemize how many people will be loosing their jobs, (or potential positions that will not be filled) you will cause them a certain amount of embarrasment (which is the one thing they don't want), and get the MSM to turn against them for a short time.

Sorry I don't have a more permanent solution, but you might just be able to use this tactic long enough to last to the end of the McGuinty era.....

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff said...

Interesting to see that WHMIS doesn't apply to jobs which come under the direct control of the government of Canada. Are safety standards as rigidly enforced in those places of employment? I certainly hope workers in federal grain elevators are warned about inhaling chaff. And told not to joy ride...

Anonymous said...

Be sarcastic and laugh about it all you want, but I think it's good that the government is trying to make ALL workplaces a safe environment.

A friend of mine was severely burned and now suffers respiratory problems from spilling and inhaling a potent industrial floor cleaner at a small retail store just like yours (6 employees).

$600 in back-pay and a couple bucks to certify your employees is better than having no protection and being open to lawsuits, instead of WSIB paying the damages for you. Maybe that's just me though.

Maybe, if one wanted to be sarcastic, one could go on about how it's true that a lifetime without needing to be hospitalized twice a year to be hooked up to a respirator and blood-cleanser from the time you had a part-time job when you were 17 isn't worth $33 to make employees aware of dangers in every workplace. I'm sure your employees working 5 hours a week wouldn't want to go through the same thing for a job that pays, what, $120-$150 a month ?

an unbiased reader said...

This rant from an employer shows the level of ignorance and the greedy disregard for worker safety that is the reason for the WSIB.

Based on my 15 years as a WSIB Clams Adjudicator, this is a classic sob story.

"We didn't know we had to register with the WSIB" - is a cop out that shows that this employer is indifferent about knowing even the minimum legislated standards. And no, the requirement that retailers be registed did not chage when the Conservative government took the words "workers" and "compensation" out of the name.

It is unconscionable that anyone who controls a working environment feels that having a formal safety policy is a "mind numbing" exercise (that that have not even bothered to go through). It is not surprising that "needless to saye I didn't go" - given the apparent disregard for workers safety.

This employers' ignorance is confirmed with the questions about why a worker must take WHMIS training for each new employer - where new, workplace spcific, hazards may exist.

I feel sorry for the workers who lose their lives or sustain permanent injury while trying to make a living working for such uncaring, ignorant and arrogant scumbags like Mrs. Comic Book Store Owner.

The WSIB should do them a favour and fine employers like this out of business.