Workplace fatality leads to $70K fine for Ontario firm

Worker falls from upper level of building being demolished

Workplace fatality leads to $70K fine for Ontario firm

Ontario employer James Curran Expert Removal & Excavating has been fined $70,000 after one of its workers died in the workplace.

Following a guilty plea, the employer must also pay a 25% victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act, to be credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime. The employer was convicted April 3, 2023.

The incident happened on July 19, 2021, when the company was engaged in the demolition of an old building previously used as a grain silo, located at 97 Centre Street, Chatham, Ontario.

Here’s how to create a safe work environment for your employees.

Holes in the floor, unguarded openings

James Curran Expert Removal & Excavating was working on a two-storey steel framed building with metal cladding. Its structural steel skeleton consisted of several different platforms at various heights. The upper-most platform contained two old hoppers, various pipes and structural walls, all of which the company needed to remove.

At the time of the incident, the worker was on a platform that had holes in the floor and unguarded openings around three sides, approximately 7.62 metres above the ground. The worker was using an oxy-acetylene torch to cut pieces of structural steel components that would then be rigged to a crane, which would lower the pieces.

The worker was in the process of removing an old hopper, working off a ladder placed beside the hopper on the platform. While making a cut, half of the hopper dropped suddenly and fell to the platform. This caused the worker to fall off the ladder, over the edge of the platform and to the ground below.

The worker, who was not protected by any method of fall protection, suffered fatal injuries, according to the Ontario government.

“James Curran Expert Removal & Excavating Limited failed, as an employer, to ensure that where a worker is exposed to a fall of over three metres, and it is not practicable to install a guardrail, the worker shall be adequately protected by a method of fall protection, as required by section 26.1(2) of Ontario Regulation 213/91 and contrary to section 25(1)(c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act,” said the provincial government.

In Canada, around 40,000 workers get injured each year due to fall accidents.

Previously, Ontario’s Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) reported 242 deaths related to fatalities in the workplace and approved claims for occupational disease in 2022. The real number, however, “was about 10 times higher than what the WSIB put through,” said Andrew Mudge, executive director of the Workers Health & Safety Centre.

Also, Mars Wrigley was fined following an incident that left two workers stuck in a tank half-filled with chocolate.

Protecting workers

Occupational health and safety laws generally require action when a worker has the potential to fall about 3 metres (10 feet), according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).

Most jurisdictions require the use of specific fall protection measures before, or in addition to, personal protective equipment (PPE). These measures generally include the use of some of the following, according to CCOHS:

  • fixed barriers (e.g., handrails, guardrails)
  • surface opening protection (e.g., covers, guardrails, etc.)
  • warning barriers or control zones
  • fall or travel restraint systems (i.e., a system to prevent a worker from falling from a work position, or from travelling to an unguarded edge from which the worker could fall)
  • fall containment system (e.g., safety nets)
  • fall arrest systems (ie., a system that will stop a worker's fall before the worker hits the surface below)

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