Compliance Anxiety Pays Off for Ontario Employee

keep calm_canadaSharon Fair oversaw asbestos removal for Hamilton-Wentworth District schools in Ontario. Many of the District’s 114 schools were built in the twentieth century when asbestos, an inflammable fibrous mineral, was a popular choice for fireproofing materials.

Fair took her position seriously, feeling intensely the responsibility of her position and its liability under Canada’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. If the District’s abatement program was found to be in violation of the Act, Fair could have been held personally liable for a fine of $25,000 and a year in prison.

She developed a debilitating generalized anxiety disorder that prevented her from performing her duties as Supervisor of the District’s abatement program, but the District failed to accommodate her in another position before it terminated her. After more than eight years of part-time and casual labor, Fair’s case was decided in Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, 2013 HRTO 440. The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ordered the District to:

  • Reinstate Fair to an appropriate position that accommodated her condition.
  • Provide adequate retraining.
  • Compensate her for more than eight years of lost wages.

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What About The Asbestos?

As of 2012, the District’s abatement program remained unfinished with a Trustee lamenting the level of asbestos remaining in Ancaster High School still has asbestos problems. Until 2012, Canada was a major exporter of asbestos, running afoul of the United Nation’s Rotterdam Convention and its inclusion of asbestos as a hazardous material.

Download Health Canada’s free It’s Your Health guide to asbestos.

What is Generalized Anxiety Order?

For Sharon Fair, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) was a reaction to the highly stressful nature of her job, and her fear that, in making a mistake about asbestos removal, she could be held personally liable for a breach of Canada’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

More than a million Canadian adults and 6.8 million American adults suffer from GAD. Symptoms include:

  • Constant, overwhelming worry
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia and fatigue
  • Headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or unexplained pains
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Uncontrollable twitching
  • Flop sweat

GAD sets the stage for the onset of other disease. The stress hormone cortisol cause increased blood sugar levels and triglycerides, which can cause coronary artery disease, short-term memory loss, digestive problems, and suppression of the natural immune system.

Want to check your level of anxiety? Take a stress test!


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