After a fire at a Kingston, Ontario construction site led to a crane operator being rescued via military helicopter on December 17, 2013, the worker’s employer and the owner of the company have been found guilty and will now have to pay a significant fine for attempting to obstruct the investigation.
The incident happened at the site of a residential construction project on Princess Street in Kingston. The crane operator was working for Waterdown-based A & A Crane Inc., which is owned by Aram Malek of Hamilton.
When the construction project caught fire, the crane operator was forced to leave the cab in order to escape the flames and scoot out onto the 65-metre-long crane boom as it hung approximately 100 metres above the ground below. Canadian Forces Base Trenton sent a military helicopter to the scene, and they were able to conduct an aerial rescue of the crane operator, who was subsequently hospitalized with serious burns.
A couple days after the rescue, an inspector with the Ontario Ministry of Labour contacted Malek to request records, including proof of employment, a copy of the contract between A & A Crane and the constructor and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) forms. The company provided some of the information, but not everything. Another inspector tried to arrange an interview with Malek but couldn’t reach him by telephone or at home. At trial, the inspectors testified that the lack of response from Malek made it impossible to continue their investigation of A & A Crane, because the information they wanted was necessary.
After the trial, Justice of the Peace Paul A. Welsh found Malek guilty of two counts under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, including knowingly furnishing an inspector with false information or neglecting or refusing to furnish information required by an inspector, and for his failure to furnish all necessary means in the person’s power to facilitate any entry, search, inspection, investigation, examination, testing or inquiry by an inspector.
For those two charges, Malek was personally fined a total of $19,000. That fine was actually more than twice the fine assessed to the company for its failure to comply with a requirement of an inspector. For that charge, A & A Crane was fined $8,000. In addition to the fines, the court also added the required 25 per cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.
If nothing else, this case should illustrate the fact that stalling or refusing to comply with a Ministry of Labour or interfering with a Ministry investigation will cost you a lot more in the long run. Once they get everything they need, they could still fine the company a lot more, so stalling doesn’t work.