Archive for the ‘Ministry of Labour’ Category

Toronto Scaffolding Collapse

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

ScaffoldingIn an incident that had the potential to be a major tragedy, seven people, one of them a baby, barely avoided suffering serious injuries on the afternoon of April 18, when scaffolding collapsed and fell into a pile of rubble on the street in Forest Hill, which is one of Toronto’s busiest neighbourhoods. The accident happened at about 2:30 p.m. at the site of a closed Chinese restaurant that is being demolished to make way for a new public transit stop along a new route.

Toronto Police, firefighters and paramedics arrived soon after the collapse and rescued the seven people, who were believed to have been trapped in the remains of the scaffolding. All seven were transported to local hospital with what were only described as “non-life-threatening injuries.”

Police note that one of those who suffered such a close call was an infant. According to police, it’s likely that the baby carriage likely saved the child’s life. Thankfully, the injuries he suffered were described as “quite minor” by police. All of the injured were either close to or inside the scaffolding at the time of the collapse, but it was not immediately known which of the injured were working on the demolition and which were pedestrians just passing by.

After the collapse, investigators from the Toronto Police Department and the Ontario Ministry of Labour swarmed the surrounding neighbourhood to look for clues as to the causes and consequences of the accident. They continue to investigate.

Calgary Worker Knocked into Trench

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

TrenchOn Friday afternoon, April 15, a construction worker was rushed to hospital with possible life-threatening injuries at a worksite near the Coast Plaza Hotel in northeast Calgary, after he was struck by a piece of heavy equipment, causing him to fall into a trench.

Paramedics and rescue crews with the Calgary Fire Department responded to the job site after they received a 911 call at 1:20 p.m. The rescue personnel worked to shore up the trench before pulling the man out and transporting him to hospital.

According to witnesses, the man was apparently struck with the bucket of a track hoe that was located at the job site. Apparently, throughout the ordeal, the victim appeared to be conscious and was apparently moving but it was unclear exactly how badly he was hurt until he arrived at hospital. The man was not identified, but in their reports paramedics said he seemed to be in his 40s.

Alberta occupational health and safety officers were almost immediately called in to investigate and their investigation is ongoing, although no charges have been lain as yet.

Supervisor Pleads Guilty to OHS Violations

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

constructionA supervisor at the construction site of Mississauga’s Sheridan Centre mall has pleaded guilty to violating health and safety regulations. As a result of that guilty plea, he has agreed to pay a $22,000 fine for an incident in which a steel collapse killed a worker,  33-year-old Christopher Crawford, a married father of three from Kitchener, on Jan. 13, 2014.

Crawford who had 13 years’ experience and belonged to the SMWU, was working as a sheet metal worker for Rockwood-based Vixman Construction, at the site of a new Target store at the mall, when the building’s steel frame collapsed, trapping and crushing him beneath the twisted metal. According to court testimony, it is believed that the weight of the decking material placed on the steel structure may have caused the collapse.

The supervisor for Vixman Construction, Fernand Landry, specifically pleaded guilty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to failing to ensure that decking was not placed, left or stored in a location or manner that endangered a worker in the collapse. The $22,000 fine was assessed by Justice of the Peace Kelly Visser in Brampton city court, and a 25 per cent victim fine surcharge was added, as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means he will pay a total of $27,500 for his failure to protect his workers.

Four Occupational Health and Safety Act charges had also been laid against Vixman Construction as an employer, but after the supervisor’s guilty plea, those charges were withdrawn.

Ontario Announces Blitz Schedule

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Ontario Announces Blitz ScheduleLast week, the Ontario Ministry of Labour announced their intention to conduct more than 20 targeted safety blitzes all over the province, beginning in May. Over the next 10 months, through March 2017, safety inspectors and employment standards officers will use these blitzes to inspect all sorts of workplaces, including construction sites, manufacturing plants, mines and retail and food service locations, looking for potential violations of Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, as well as the Employment Standards Act.

According to the news release announcing the blitzes, Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn noted,

“Every worker has the right to work in a healthy, safe, and fair workplace. Targeted blitz programs like these increase awareness, compliance and overall safety among workers and employers throughout the province.”

The first blitzes will begin May 2, and target temporary foreign workers and young workers in a variety of workplaces, including retail and food service locations, but also construction and any other sector known to hire large numbers of such workers. Soon after that, on May 16, they will target fall safety in the construction, mining and industrial sectors, a blitz that will be ongoing through July 15. There is little time to prepare, so you might want to start immediately. The full schedule of safety blitzes can be found here.

These blitzes are considered by the Ministry of Labour to be a significant part of their enforcement strategy to increase compliance with both the Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Since 2005, the Ministry of Labour has recovered more than $144 million in wages and other money owed to employees. In addition, since June 2008, when the blitz strategy started, OHS inspectors have issued more than one million compliance orders for safety issues throughout Ontario.

School Board Fined $250,000

Friday, April 15th, 2016

JusticeAfter the death of a maintenance worker employed by them, the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) has pleaded guilty to violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and penalized with a fine of $250,000.

The accident happened on Jan. 9, 2015, at St. Nicholas Adult High School, which is located on Admiral Avenue in Ottawa, although he worked at several Board schools. On that day, he was tasked with replacing a safety cage on a ceiling light in the school’s gymnasium. He worked alone, and he was provided with a van equipped with a trailer and ramp, as well as a lifting device called a portable aerial device.

When he first arrived at the school, the worker shoveled some snow to clear a path, opened the trailer and lowered the ramp, which was made of wood with a metal plate and was attached to the rear of the trailer, to the ground. The length of the ramp was 7 feet, three inches and the angle was about eight degrees. This is important, because the aerial device’s manual indicated that it should not be rolled down an incline greater than five degrees because of the weight distribution. Predictably, as the aerial device rolled down the ramp, it tipped over and struck the worker, injuring him fatally.

The OCSB pleaded guilty to charges that that failed as an employer to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstance for the protection of a worker. Specifically, they noted, among other things, that; the angle of the ramp was too large; they failed to ensure that all surfaces were free of ice or snow; and they failed to make sure another worker was available to assist.

After the guilty plea was accepted in Ottawa court, Justice of the Peace Jacques Desjardins imposed a fine of $250,000 and also imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means a total cost of $312,500, simply for not making sure a worker was trained properly and kept safe. Investing in safety saves everyone.

Hydro Ottawa Fined for Electrocutions

Monday, April 11th, 2016

hydro linesRecently, after a trial, Hydro Ottawa Ltd was found guilty and fined $225,000 for an accident in which one worker was killed on the job and two others suffered serious injuries.

The accident that led to charges happened on March 22, 2012, as workers who were employed by a sub-contractor, Digsafe, Inc., were installing new hydro poles and wires below existing energized lines on Moodie Drive in Ottawa. As a crew of three workers were digging a hole, the boom of their work vehicle came within less than three metres of a power line that was located approximately 6 metres above the hole. As a result, all three workers received electrical shocks and they were all transported to hospital. Two of the workers were treated and released and suffered no permanent physical injuries, but the third worker was more seriously injured and died later in hospital.

Immediately after the incident, the Ontario Ministry of Labour conducted a thorough investigation and found a number of violations at the worksite and filed charges. After a trial, Hydro Ottawa was found guilty of a number of violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act’s Constructions Projects Regulation, including:

  • Failure to ensure that the boom of a vehicle was not more than three metres away from an energized overhead conductor;
  • Failure to assign a competent worker as a signaler;
  • Failure to warn the operator every time any part of the vehicle or other equipment may have been within three metres of the energized conductor and;
  • Failure to take every reasonable precaution to prevent hazards posed by energized electrical equipment, installation, and conductors.

After the guilty verdict was rendered, Justice of the Peace Brian Mackey assessed a fine of $225,000 on Hydro Ottawa and added the 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge required by the Provincial Offences Act. That’s a total fine of $281,250 for not keeping workers safe.

That was not the only fine in this incident. Back in 2013, Digsafe Inc., the sub-contractor and Ottawa Hydro’s co-defendant, pleaded guilty to charges against them in this incident and had to pay a fine of $125,000 plus the 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge. That cost that company a total of $156,250. That means the total fines for this single incident was $437,500, for simply not taking basic precautions, properly assessing hazards and keeping workers safe.

Worker Falls at Trans-Canada Site

Friday, April 8th, 2016

scaffoldOn the morning of March 21, a welder at a TransCanada pipeline construction site in northern Alberta fell more than 20 metres from scaffolding and died as a result of his injuries.

According to officials with the occupational health and safety department (OHS) of the Alberta Ministry of Labour (MOL), the worker in question, who was a 29-year-old contracted employee of Horton CBI Limited, had been working from scaffolding at about 10:45 a.m. when the accident occurred. They put a stop-work order in place and they began an investigation almost immediately.

The Wood Buffalo RCMP was at the worksite, the location of a new tank terminal that is under construction for TransCanada’s Northern Courier Pipeline Project, soon after and they apparently ruled out foul play. OHS was unable to confirm whether or not the worker had been wearing sufficient fall-protection gear at the time of the accident, which is required by regulation. They noted that the investigation by the MOL would take a thorough look at  look into the causes and whether or not this tragedy could have been prevented.

The worksite is located approximately 100 kilometres north of Fort McMurray. In addition to the stop-work order, TransCanada also temporarily suspended work at the site soon after, so as to allow all workers to deal with the tragedy.

WorkSafeBC: Plan for Asphalt Fumes Risk

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

asphalt safetyAt the end of last week, WorkSafeBC sent out a new risk advisory for workers who work with asphalt products, especially road workers on paving crews, noting that such workers may be exposed to vapours and fumes containing a number of very hazardous chemicals. Among the specific chemicals that the advisory mentions include benzo[a]pyrene, bitumen, and other hydrocarbons that are recognized carcinogens.

Whenever the asphalt paving material is heated during application as part of road construction, the mixture releases vapours and fumes into the air that workers can inhale. In the short term, workers who are exposed to these chemicals may see symptoms like irritation in their nose and eyes, laboured breathing, headaches and nausea. Unfortunately, long-term exposure to asphalt fumes is far worse, with the potential of increased risk to workers of certain types of cancer, with growing scientific evidence pointing to lung cancer as the greatest risk.

WorkSafeBC is warning road workers, but they are also reminding employers that they have the responsibility of protecting workers from the risks of asphalt fumes and that the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulation and Guidelines most relevant to this risk will apply. They note that all applicable employers must have an exposure control plan (ECP) in place at every workplace, and that includes available information on the risks of exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and all controls that are appropriate whenever workers may be exposed to such chemicals and materials.

Vancouver City Worker Fatally Injured

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

electric-sawThe month of April in the City of Vancouver started with the city government ordering flags to be flown at half-mast. In order to honour Jody Taylor, an arborist with the city who was killed on March 31, as he was trimming a tree branch in Connaught Park.

WorkSafeBC is investigating the accident, in which Taylor, who was 43 and had been working with the city for 16 years as a certified arborist, was working from an elevated bucket mounted on a boom at the time of the accident. Apparently, he was cutting back the tree at about 9:30 a.m. when a huge limb fell and crushed him against the inside of the bucket. He was immediately rushed to hospital, where he was later pronounced dead from his injuries.

According to the City of Vancouver, Taylor is the first employee to die on the job there since 1997. City officials say they are working closely with WorkSafeBC in its investigation, but they also plan to do their own investigation over the next 30 days. They planned to issue a preliminary report over the weekend to determine if it is necessary to implement any immediate safety measures.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, City Manager Sadhu Johnson and a number of other city officials held a news conference on Friday, April 1, where they noted that “It’s heartbreaking to know there’s a 10-year-old daughter who’s getting out of school and learning about this incident and the loss of her father.” They noted that the “safety and security of our staff is of critical importance” to the city and touted the long period in which no city worker had been killed. The city planned to pay tribute to Taylor at its meeting April 4.

Company, Supervisor Fined for Fall

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Company, Supervisor Fined for FallOskam Welding (2014) Ltd., a welding and machining company located in Guelph, and one of its supervisors, Chad Wheeler, have been hit with total fines of $130,000 after pleading guilty to violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, for an incident in which a worker was killed in a fall from a structure the worker was assembling.

The accident happened on July 3, 2014, as workers were installing two mezzanine structures at an industrial complex in Guelph. At the time, Oskam was one week into the six-month construction project. The metal plates that were to be used to form the floor of the mezzanine measure about 10 feet by 4 feet and weighed up to 500 pounds each and they were being hoisted into place one at a time by a mobile crane. While one worker operated the crane from one worker, another worker at ground level was responsible for rigging the load to the crane.

At the time of the accident, two workers were standing on the mezzanine structure to receive and place the steel plates into position. While the workers  were wearing fall protection harnesses and lanyards, anchor points had not been installed, which meant the lifelines were not in use and those workers were unable to adequately prevent themselves from falling. On this day, the worker in question was left alone on the platform when a co-worker left to use the restroom. The worker signaled the crane operator to lower the load into place in the floor deck.

According to the Ministry of Labour, workers in the area heard sounds that appeared to indicate the worker was using a pry bar to position the plate just before he fell about 13 feet to the ground below. In addition to the fall, the plate also fell and struck him. The investigation also discovered there were no guardrails present at the edges of the mezzanines or the openings in the work surface, which was more than three metres from ground level; and because no anchor points were provided on the mezzanines to allow workers to tie off and be protected from falling. All of these constituted violations of  Ontario Regulation 213/91, the Construction Projects Regulation.

For its part, Oskam  pleaded guilty to their failure to ensure workers were protected from the hazard of falling and they were fined $125,000. The company’s worksite supervisor, Chad Wheeler, pleaded guilty to the same violation and was individually fined an additional $5,000. In addition to the fines, Justice of the Peace Michael Cuthbertson also imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. All of that because someone forgot to anchor the fall protection for a worker.