Worker Fined $13,000 and his supervisor fined $15,000
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Workers and supervisors beware!!
In a recent court case from November 2017, a worker was fined $13,000 and the workers supervisor was fined $15,000 stemming from an accident that resulted in a dead construction worker.
The worker was a crane operator, he sent a text to the supervisor that the crane was a danger. The supervisior sent back a text saying if it is a danger it should be shut down. 12 days later, the crane tipped over and crushed and killed another worker.
The crane operator was fined $13,000 for not doing anything about the situation, the supervisor was also fined $15,000.
This case goes directly to the point that we are all responsible. When you see a dangerous condition, are you able to cleanly answer to youself, 'what did you do about the dangerous condition that you just identified?'
I hear 4 and 5 hour working at heights classes are sneaking back in the training system.
You have been doing this for years, you know it all, right? I know its boring, or, these people weren't meant to be in a class room for a full day. Some of the comments I have heard by some trainers who cave to workers pressuring them to speed up the class and get them out early.
In reality many workers have never been properly trained about; guardrails, floor covers, travel restraint, what is a fall restriction system, how to properly wear and adjust a harness, how high does the tie off anchor have to be to make sure I don't hit the ground or floor below? These are all good questions and ones that need to be covered in working at heights training in order to be successful and reduce the number of construction deaths.
Case in point, I had an experience several years ago on a high rise project, where I saw most of the experienced workers not wearing their harness properly. After some encouragement, I finally convinced the site supervisor to shut down the job for 1/2 hour and allow me to perform a safety talk for all workers on site, regarding how to don a harness. With approx 60 workers in attendance, some new and a couple of workers who had been working in construction for over 50 years. The first consensus among most workers was, what is this guy going to tell me that I don't already know? Well to my surprise after the safety talk, two of the 50 year workers approached me, shook my hand and thanked me for the instructions, they said, "in 50 years in construction, nobody ever showed them how to properly don a harness."
I think If the trainer makes the session dynamic and steers away from boring, workers can handle sitting for a whole day on a relevant topic that will help prevent injury or possibly kill them..
I am sure everyone can say that was an experience! One year in since mandatory MOL approvals for Working at Heights. Who thought there would only be 75 private training providers and 16 in house providers. Recent released MOL numbers indicate 106,000 workers had been trained in the approved Working at Heights training program since April 1 2015. So now the question becomes; how long before we reap the rewards with lower construction deaths?
Although the training is now better than it was prior to April 1 2015, the main key to reducing construction deaths is a shift is attitude and culture.
Unfortunately one reason I don't believe that everyone has bought in to the working at heights philosophy because that don't believe they will ever die on a construction site! Until everyone knows a dead construction worker, things will not improve, and that is sad.
A second reason that will make it tough to reduce number's that I am hearing of 4 hour courses sneaking back in again, reverting back to the old days. You cannot cover the 57 learning objectives in 4 hours and it is strictly against MOL rules. And some of these 4 hour classes are coming from people who have been approved to train Working at Heights by the safety associations. Who is monitoring the 3rd party trainers? The agency who gave approval is supposed to be monitoring, but I haven't heard of any audits yet, have you?
Many of you are aware of the accident that occurred on Christmas eve 2009 where 4 workers fell to their death and a 5th worker shattered his spine and broke his legs along with other injuries. Another piece of the puzzle came together on Jan 11, 2016 when the project manager was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in Jail for his inaction. This sentence should sent a message to the construction industry that management does have OHS liability.
Metron Construction was cited for criminal negligence causing the worker’s deaths and originally fined $200,000 plus a 25% victim surcharge, which was based on the fact that the fine was over three times the company’s most recent profitable year. Upon filing an appeal by the crown attorney, the appeals court found that the original fine was insufficient, and the company’s fine was increased to $750,000 plus a 25% victim surcharge.
The owner of the construction business Joel Swartz was personally fined for four (4) violations under the OHSA and Construction Regulations, and issued a $90,000 fine plus a 25% victim surcharge.
The scaffolding company Swing n Scaff was fined $350,000 plus a 25% victim surcharge.
The director of the swing stage company, Patrick Deschamps was fined $50,000 plus a 25% victim surcharge.
Total Fines $1,240,000 plus 25% victim surcharge Totalling $1.55 Million
The project manager, who was on site at the time and played a direct part in the accident, was also charged. The project manager was convicted of 4 counts of criminal negligence causing death and 1 count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm, and was sentenced to 3½ years in Jail.
Both surviving workers and the family of one of the deceased workers currently have a multi million dollar lawsuit against all involved including the Ministry of Labour for incompetent inspections.
This accident involves a tragedy that happened at an apartment building balcony restoration project on Kipling Ave in Toronto.
Metron construction who had been in business for 23 years was removing and replacing old balconies that had deteriorated. To access the balcony face the contractor was using a hanging swing stage system that had been rented from a company in Ottawa.
On December 24, 2009, six (6) employees (five (5) workers and a site supervisor) were on the swing stage that the contractor intended to be typically used by only two (2) people even though a typical swing stage of this size should be able to take much more than 2 people. All workers were wearing a harness; only two (2) lifelines were available. One of the workers was properly attached. A second worker was attached, but not correctly. After handing tools and materials to workers on the swing stage, the project manager (a seventh person) asked the site supervisor ‘about more lifelines’, the supervisor told him ‘not to worry about it’. While the project manager was accessing the swing stage from a balcony, the platform broke in two. The project manager was still hanging onto the balcony and managed to pull himself to safety. When the platform split, five of the six workers fell 13 stories to the ground below. Four were killed instantly and the fifth, who was not tied off correctly, survived although he sustained catastrophic injuries involving broken legs and a shattered spine. The one uninjured worker, who was tied off properly, was pulled to safety by the project manager after the swing stage collapsed.
The swing stage was not properly marked with the maximum capacity load allowance, serial numbers, identifiers or labels (as required by health and safety legislation and industry practice). The stages also arrived without any instructions, user manuals or other product information, such as design drawings prepared by an engineer as required by OHSA s. 139(5).
The resulting forensic examination of the swing stage platform determined that a significant cause of the collapse was defective design and welding by the manufacturer. If properly designed and constructed, a swing stage of this size should have been able to hold 1,800 kilograms which was more than the load weight at the time of the collapse. At the time of the accident the swing stage had been in use for over two (2) months.
The Ministry of Labour had issued stop work orders against the contractor at this site at least two times in the months leading up to the accident. The first stop work order was issued in October for the following reasons: 1) the production of drawings for the roof anchors and the last annual inspection report were not available onsite; 2) failure to provide proper access to the swing stage; 3) failure to ensure that the wire mesh was "securely fastened" from the floor to the top of the guardrail on the swing stages; and 4) failure to install additional guardrails. The citation issues were addressed, and the stop order was lifted the next day.
A second stop order was issued on December 17, one week before the accident. This stop order involved an unrelated swing stage located at the garage door of the same building. This citation was resolved and the stop-work order was lifted the same day. Between October 20 and December 17 the Ministry of Labour had conducted 9 field visits to this site.
Additionally, a toxicological analysis determined that at the time of the accident, three of the four deceased victims, including the site supervisor, “had marijuana in their system at a level consistent with having recently ingested the drug.” Evidence also revealed that the constructor stood to get a $50,000 bonus if the job was completed by the end of December.
Shortly after the accident the project manager asked the uninjured worker to lie and say he was not on the swing stage when it collapsed, and to claim that he had received a copy of the company’s health and safety manual prior to the accident, even though the worker could not read the English document. It was noted that the deceased workers ranged from 25 to 40 years old, they from Latvia, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine and that all of the workers had limited English language skills. It was further noted that the employer provided approximately 30 minutes of training on how to operate the swing stage, and failed to ensure that the workers were trained in a language that was understood.