OCOT deploys first 20 job-site inspectors

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            Controversy about reported “work stopping” enforcement visit on job site

Ottawa Constructio News staff writer

The Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) has hired and deployed its first group of 20 inspectors/enforcement officers, resulting in some confusion and controversy as employers learn about their obligations to co-operate with the new organization.

“We had a member come to us, and say that inspectors had come on to a large job site, and asked that (the employer) essentially shut down the work, and bing all the workers into one spot on the job site, and check the credentials of the workers in the mandatory certified trades,” said David Frame, the Ontario General Contractors’ Association’s (OGCA) director of government relations. “This set up a whole process of that company and other companies saying, ‘What are our obligations to the new set of inspectors?’”

It turns out, says Frame and OCOT senior communications officer Tristan Austin, that OCOT inspectors can certainly visit work sites during regular working without notice (unless  pre-notification is an operational requirement), but they don’t have the authority to stop the job, in the way that Ministry of Labour inspectors (who formerly handled the specific responsibilities of OCOT inspectors) could.

But did the reported work-stopping incident Frame reported actually occur?

Austin says the OCOT can find no record or evidence of any of its inspectors taking action that would require a work stoppage on a job site.  He said no one has provided the name or details of the specific site where the incident is supposed to have occurred.

“We’re happy to look into it, but no one has given us any actual facts,” he said.

The OCOT inspectors, who previously worked for the Ministry of Labour (and in Ottawa, the Jobs Protection Office) are mandated to check on compulsory certification, apprenticeship ratios, and other issues under the OCOT’s authority.

Austin said the officers can issue tickets, at $195 or $295, for a “list of infractions, but the inspectors are presently just issuing warnings, not tickets or other penalties.  “Offences for persons under OCTAA (e.g. practising a compulsory trade without appropriate qualification) may receive a fine of not more than $5,000 for a first offence, and $10,000 for an additional offence,” the OCOT website says.

Austin says inspectors, who started work on June 6, have started finding some “infractions such as an individuals working in a compulsory trade without having his or her Certificate of Qualification or membership card present on site.”

“In these cases, the officers have been using their discretion, by giving a warning to these individuals.”

“The college has not given out any tickets as of July 24, 2013,” Austin said.  “However, enforcement officers do have the ability to give tickets and will use their discretion on a case-by-case basis.”

Frame said his understanding is that the OCOT inspectors, while they have enforcement powers and cannot be denied access to work sites, do not have the power to stop work.  He said employers should prepare systems and procedures to be prepared for inspectors’ visits.

Meanwhile, tradespeople in certified trades should be sure to have their cards with them – if they don’t want to receive a ticket, when these are issued.

Austin said the OCOT plans to augment its current group of 20 inspectors with 20 more by the end of 2013. The decision about when to hire and deploy additional inspectors will depend on the OCOT’s budget.

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