Last week, General Motors of Canada pleaded guilty in an Ontario court to violating several provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), and were $160,000, for an incident in which a 2,000-pound lift table fell on a worker and crushed him.
The incident that led to the charges occurred on December 17, 2012 at GM’s plant in Oshawa. One worker was explaining a task to a co-worker, regarding the automatic guided vehicle (AGV) repair crib. The first worker explained the preliminary steps for the task, including the removal of screws from a ball screw assembly, when he was called away. While he was away, the co-worker removed all of the screws except one.
Upon returning to the scene, the first worker began to show his co-worker how to retract the ball screw while he was sitting on top of the AGV’s frame, with the lift table raised above, when the lift table and a pallet used to hold the car frame suddenly fell on top of him. Immediately, other workers at the plant rushed in use pry bars to raise the lift table off the worker. Soon after, the worker was transported to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where he was treated for injuries that included broken bones.
The Ontario Ministry of Labour investigated the incident, and found there was no blocking material in place between the lift table and the AGV to prevent it from falling. Also, Ministry engineers determined that the lift table collapsed because the assembly’s only remaining screw failed. Though workers had implemented a safety bar designed to hold the lift table’s weight, it has slipped out of place and the last screw was not strong enough to hold up the lift table, and it fell on the worker.
GM of Canada pleaded guilty to the charge of failing as an employer to ensure that the measures and procedures prescribed in Section 74 of Ontario Regulation 851/90 were carried out in the workplace. That OHSA regulation states that “machinery, equipment or material that is temporarily elevated and under which a worker may pass or work shall be securely and solidly blocked to prevent the machinery, equipment or material from falling or moving.”
The $160,000 fine was ordered by Justice of the Peace Mathilda Lewis in Whitby court. She also added the 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge required by the Provincial Offences Act, which brings the total hit to the company’s bottom line to $200,000. Creating a safety culture in a workplace doesn’t cost a company, it pays.