Corporation fined $250,000, Directors jailed for workplace fatality

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Two corporate officers have each been sentenced to 25 days in jail following the death of a worker in Brampton, Ontario. Both directors were also ordered to take a health and safety course within the next 60 days.  The directors were charged with failing to take reasonable care to ensure that the corporation complied with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations. The corporation itself, New Mex Canada Inc., an importer and retailer of furniture, was charged with failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker regarding fall protection and/or working from a height, and failing to ensure the safety measures required by law were carried out.  It pleaded guilty and was fined $250,000 plus a 25 percent victim fine surcharge under the Provincial Offences Act.

The workplace fatality occurred in January of 2013 when a worker was using a machine called an “order picker”.  The order picker is described as a combination forklift/operator-up platform.  The order picker had been modified with an additional platform supported by the forks that was tack-welded to the manufacturer-equipped operator platform, however, there was no guard rail and at the time of the accident the worker was not wearing fall protection equipment.  His body was found on the floor and he was pronounced dead.  The cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head. 

OHSA Regulation 851, the “Industrial Establishments Regulation”, requires workers to use fall protection equipment, such as a safety harness, if they are working at heights of more than three metres.  The Regulation requires employers to ensure that the safety measures set out in the Regulation are implemented in the workplace.  A Ministry of Labour investigation revealed that New Mex’s employees were not provided with fall protection equipment, and in fact had received no health and safety training at all.  These findings were in addition to numerous other health and safety hazards identified in the workplace. 

The jail sentences and the significant fine indicate the seriousness with which courts are treating violations of health and safety requirements in Ontario.  Readers of Focus will recall the Metron decision in which Metron Construction Corp. pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death under the Criminal Code and was ultimately fined $750,000 (increased by the Court of Appeal from $200,000).  This trend in the case law is a reminder to organizations to ensure that their health and safety policies and practices are meeting the requirements of the legislation. 

For further information, please contact Kevin MacNeill at (613) 940-2767