May 15, 2013
By Steve Zronik
Consultant, Workplace Safety and Prevention Services

Cindy had been working for a new plant nursery and retail outlet for the last month since getting out of college for the summer.

She had a great interest in plants and had taken courses at college which qualified her to work in the nursery part of the operation. She loved her work, potting plants, pruning, diagnosing diseases and best of all, nobody really bothered her much. She often worked alone. In fact supervision was almost non-existent, since she seemed to know what she was doing. Besides it was spring and very busy.

Today, Cindy was needed in the retail outlet. One of the employees there had called in sick and the other one had a death in the family. The owner was desperate and he figured Cindy could handle it. She was shown how to operate the cash register and told to help the customers as best as she could. After all, she knew plants.

One of the first customers of the day was admiring the colourful hanging baskets and had chosen one she wanted to purchase. Normally, the cashiers would use a long handled tool with a hook on the end to reach and lower the baskets. Cindy didn’t know it existed. The pots were just high enough to be beyond her reach.

Looking around, the simplest solution was to grab the stool behind the cash register and stand on it. That particular pot had somehow snagged itself in the suspension wire it was hanging from and wouldn’t come easily. As Cindy tried to free it, her weight shifted on the stool and she fell striking her arm on a display of plants on her way toward the concrete below.

How could this have been prevented? The firm did not have an orientation and training program in place. It is the employer’s legal responsibility to ensure that workers are aware of hazards and trained on how to safely do each specific task.

The lax attitude toward supervision demonstrates poor management and a shirking of responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which requires employers to ensure workers are supervised and trained properly.

The broken arm required a call to the Ministry of Labour; critical injuries require ministry notification. Because of the lack of training, records, and supervision, the company will most likely be charged and taken to court. The fine could be substantial.

The firm should have anticipated that having only one first aid person could be a problem. They should have assessed their needs and trained an appropriate number of first aiders.

Want help making sure you have the right pieces in place to protect your employees? Contact Landscape Ontario’s partner for health and safety advice and assistance, Workplace Safety and Prevention Services at 1-877-494-9777, ext. 0, or visit the website at Also, stay on top of the latest news by connecting with WSPS on Twitter at