Archive for the ‘OHS’ Category

Company Faces Charges for Fall by 14 Year Old Roofer

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Roof WorkersIn Alberta, a roofing contractor faces numerous occupational health and safety charges in the wake of an incident this past July in which a worker fell nearly four metres from the roof of a house. What makes this case unusual is that the worker who fell was only 14 years old.

Airdrie, Alberta-based Vital Contracting Ltd. is scheduled to make their first appearance in court in Red Deer on Dec. 19, where they will answer to one count of inappropriately employing a person younger than 15 years old, and others, for their failure to train a worker in fall protection and their failure to develop a comprehensive fall protection plan. They have also been accused of failing to ensure the safety of a worker, failure to competently supervise the worker, and a failure to keep employment records.

The incident that led to the charges happened at a residence in Lacombe, which is located between Edmonton and Red Deer. Thankfully, the injured worker survived the fall, although he was hospitalized briefly.

According to Alberta’s Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour, this incident is particularly troubling, because it involved a young worker and fall protection, two areas that involve tremendous risk to workers, and which concern the agency the most. As a result, in addition to charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, they have taken the relatively rare step of also charging them under the province’s Employment Standards Code, based on the fact that they employed someone under 15 inappropriately. This is the first time since 2009 that they’ve lain charges under both Acts against a single employer

For violating the Employment Standards Code, Vital Contracting could face a fine of up to $100,000, while a first offence under the provincial OHS Act could cost them as much as $500,000 and/or six months in prison.

 

Company Fined $400k for Toronto Subway Construction Worker Death

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Subway constructionA terrible accident that occurred at a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) subway construction site in North York in 2011 has led to a guilty plea and a $400,000 fine against OHL-FCC GP Canada Inc.,the construction company for whom the victim worked. .

A work crew was on the job site near York University on October 11, 2011, when the accident happened. They were working on twin bored tunnels that will eventually become an 8.6-km subway line for the TTC. One of the workers was operating a drill rig equipped with an auger to create a shaft. At the same time, another worker was operating an excavator, digging dispersal holes near the pile being drilled so that wet waste material from the drill casing could be discharged into them. A third worker was operating a backhoe loader, which was being used to remove excavated earth from the drilling area.

The drill rig operator raised the auger from the hole and swung the mast. He and several witnesses saw the boom swing to the right and he felt the machine move. Witnesses also saw one of the drill rig’s tracks slip into a rut, which caused it to topple over. In the process, the mast and casing crushed both the excavator and the backhoe. The excavator operator was seriously injured, and the backhoe operator was killed in the accident.

The ensuing investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour determined that the main factors in the accident included inadequate site preparation, resulting in the soil base being incapable of withstanding the weight and pressure created by the drill rig. In addition, they found that the procedure of digging dispersal holes filled with wet material actually weakened the soil base, making the accident more likely. The drill rig was also being operated on a slope greater than allowed within safe parameters.

OHL-FCC GP pleaded guilty to failing as a constructor to ensure that safety measures required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act were followed, and was fined $400,000. The fine was imposed by Justice Melvyn Green in Old City Hall Court in Toronto, who also added a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means the company Is out $500,000 altogether, just because they didn’t take proper precautions to keep workers safe. Another example showing that safe workplaces don’t cost, they save.

Report: Ontario WSIB Still Rewarding Unsafe Employers

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

WSIB OntarioAccording to a new report, the Ontario workers compensation insurance system that was previously discovered to have been giving rebates to employers who were found to be dangerous back in 2008 investigation may still be doing just that.

The report, from the Ontario Federation of Labour, seems to suggest that, in years following worker deaths and serious injuries, a number of companies are still getting a lot of money in safety rebates. In some cases, the rebates were so large as to negate the fines the companies were assessed by Ontario courts for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) laws and regulations.

For its part, the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has questioned the accuracy of the research that led to this new report, and they claim to have taken what they refer to as “strong action” in recent years, cancelling $10 million or more in potential Fatal Claim Premium Adjustment policy rebates. However, the report notes that 135 employers who had been convicted of offences under the OHSA received premium rebates from the WSIB, and in 58 per cent of those cases, they received rebates for the same year their offences occurred. This happened between 2011 and 2013. In all, those rebates to 78 employers came to more than $14 million.

Most Ontario companies are required to buy insurance from the WSIB, and those premiums pay for the program. The purpose of the rebates is to reward those companies that are able to improve workplace safety. The also assess surcharges on those companies with a spotty record, in an effort to put pressure on them to improve. Unfortunately, it’s not looking as if the WSIB is doing things the way they are designed.

Alberta OHS Investigates 4 Worker Deaths in 7 Days

Monday, December 1st, 2014

WarningThe Alberta Ministry of Labour has been rocked by one of the worst weeks for workplace fatalities in the history of the province. Over a single seven-day period, four workers have died on the job; a number the Ministry has declared is “too many.” Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) officials are on the scene of all four incidents to investigate.

In the most recent incident, which occurred November 25, a worker was crushed to death at a site near Carseland, which is southeast of Calgary, as he was working on a crew that was removing a temporary bridge south of Highway 901. The Friday before, November 21, a 42-year-old worker was on top of a ladder at a residential construction site in St. Albert when he fell from the ladder, a height of about five metres, to the ground below. He was transported to hospital and died a short time later.

That incident came a day after a concrete brick wall collapsed on top of a 60-year-old worker at an industrial strip mall in northeast Calgary, crushing him. It was later discovered that the worker was sent by an agency called Blue Collar Temps to work for the Norcal Group, and that Norcal had been operating without a work permit. They were immediately issued a stop work order by Calgary city officials for any future construction.

And two days before that, on November 18, a 40-year-old worker from Edmonton was killed when he was struck in the head with a piece of machinery that has not yet been identified. That incident occurred in the Calgary neighbourhood of Cranston. It was later learned that the company that employed the worker, Insituform Technologies, had a disabling injury rate that was more than twice  the industry average for the province in both 2012 and 2013.

Alberta officials say they are in the process of training occupational health and safety workers to become peace officers. That will allow them to be more effective at enforcing workplace regulations more efficiently and effectively. This spate of workplace deaths will probably spur even more investigations.

Important for Your Small Business: Be Blitz-Ready

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

MOLThe Ontario Ministry of Labour has a strong motivation to keep workers safe, by making sure that all workplaces are in compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations. It is because of this that the ministry conducts a large number of workplace inspection blitzes.

Most established businesses within the province are quite aware of the Ontario Ministry of Labour and its practices, including these inspection blitzes. However, based on statistics recently released by the Ministry regarding blitzes conducted between April 2013 in March 2014, it would seem that many small businesses are not. One of the key elements of running any business in Ontario is workplace safety. You should consider it to be as important as your business license.

During that time period, inspectors with the Ministry of Labour conducted just under 1,200 workplace inspections of businesses with fewer than 20 workers that had recently registered their business with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), but  had no prior contact with the Ministry of Labour before the blitz inspection. As result of these inspections, a surprisingly large number of new businesses were issued a large number of MoL orders, mostly for failing to deliver on the basics, such as an Internal Responsibility System (IRS), which clearly sets out the responsibilities of each worker, supervisor and manager for helping to maintain a workplace that is safe and healthy for everyone.

In all, inspectors made 1,589 field visits to 1,190 small businesses, and issued 4,014 orders for violations of the OHSA and its regulations, including 58 stop work orders, which is not the way you want to start your business life. Nearly half of those orders were related to the lack of an IRS, while 23% of those orders were issued because the workplace failed to develop a policy for addressing workplace violence and harassment. Nearly 20% of the orders were given because employers  failed to train workers on safety or they failed to prominently post OHSA programs and policies somewhere in the workplace.

If you are planning a new small business, it is very important that you are ready willing and able to show compliance with the OHSA. That means it is essential that your workplace have an established IRS, and that your workers have been properly trained. They should be able to  identify and control hazards, but they should also be aware of their rights under the OHSA. Most of these orders could have been avoided by just being aware of your responsibilities as a new small business owner.

Worker Loses Fingers, Food Processor Loses $110,000 Fine

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

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Last week, the Ontario Court of Justice hit Maple Leaf Consumer Foods, carrying on business as Maple Leaf Consumer Foods and Cappola Foods, with a $110,000 fine for an accident in which a worker using a meat chopping machine lost several fingers.

According to a report from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, the plant worker was operating a meat chopper, which has a moving blade enclosed in a small cage. When the blade was being operated and the cage was lifted, the blade would slowly come to a stop. While the worker was operating the machine, he noticed that some meat had become stuck in the blade, so he lifted the safety cage and used a hook to try and pull the meat from the blade, which continued to spin. The hook then became caught by the moving blade, which pulled the worker’s hand toward the blade, where his hand come into contact with the blade, which resulted in the loss of several fingers.

After a thorough investigation, the Ministry of Labour charged Maple Leaf Foods with failure, as an employer, to ensure that a moving part of a machine was cleaned only after it had stopped.

The $110,000 fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace David J. Hunt, who also added in the 25 percent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.

That means an easily avoidable accident ended up costing the company a total of $137,500. Compare that to the cost of training workers, and you’ll see what a bargain a safe workplace can be.

Failing to Maintain Culture of Safety Costs Company $137,500

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

construtionLast week, Process Group Inc. was hit with a fine of $110,000 for a violation of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), after an incident that occurred on October 27, 2010, when a worker was dismantling some equipment at a Windsor General Motors Transmission Plant, and was seriously injured while doing so.

The worker was attempting to decommission the piece of equipment for the company, which supplies engineering, construction and maintenance services to manufacturing plants. In order to gain access to the equipment that was being removed, it was necessary for several workers to remove sections of an overhead conveyor.

When the workers cut and began separating the conveyor section, they started by removing the anchor bolts on the conveyor’s base. When the last bolt was loosened, the conveyor section toppled and hit the worker, breaking several vertebrae in his back and also breaking a leg.

An inspection by the Ministry of Labour found that no blocking had been installed to prevent the collapse or movement of the conveyor section that was being dismantled.

At a trial held November 12, Process Group Inc. was found guilty of “failing as an employer to prevent the collapse or movement of part or all of a piece of equipment that is being dismantled, altered or repaired if its collapse or movement may endanger a worker.”

The sentencing took place on December 2, 2013. The fine of $110,000 was imposed by Ontario Court of Justice of the Peace Michael Hurst. The company was also issued the 25 percent victim surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.

That means failing to train employees to take basic precautions when installing and removing equipment is costing Process Group, Inc.$137,500, not to mention the pain and suffering of the injured worker…. which is certainly a lot more than the cost of basic safety training.

Quebec Pork Plant Reopens After Shutdown for Ammonia Leak

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

A Quebec City-area hog processing plant run by Olymel began to restart operations last week after being closed for nearly a week due to a potentially deadly ammonia leak on August 13 that made nine workers sick enough to be hospitalized. The ammonia apparently came from their refrigeration system. The closing affected about 1,000 employees.

Know what to look for...

Know what to look for…

The company has been working with a number of government agencies to fix the situation, and to ensure that there was no further risk to its workers or consumers. First, they located the ammonia leak’s origin, in the refrigeration system they use to quick-freeze meat, and they said they will continue to investigate, to make sure they understand what caused the leak and to prevent one in the future.

The plant is a large one, with the capacity to process nearly 38,000 hogs per week. Most of its product is exported to Russia, Japan and the United States.

Workers who are exposed to ammonia tend to inhale it. Once inside the body, it tends to immediately interact with the body’s moisture to form ammonium hydroxide, which can cause irritation of the nose and throat. While ammonia has a strong odor, the longer the exposure, the more likely a person will become desensitized, which can reduce awareness of its presence in the air.

While low levels of ammonia can cause minor skin or eye irritation, higher concentrations can result in serious injury and burns, often to the lungs, which can sometimes cause fluid to build up, or even lesions or sores on the lungs. It can also cause permanent eye damage, including blindness.

Chemical exposure in the workplace is a serious problem, but it can often be prevented, by properly maintaining equipment and training workers on the hazards.

Two Mississaugua Workers Injured in Two Incidents in One Day

Friday, August 9th, 2013

The Ontario Ministry of Labour is currently conducting two investigations, after two separate incidents injured two workers in Mississauga on the same day.

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In one incident, which occurred at about 2:30 p.m., a construction worker suffered serious injuries when he fell into a hole at a construction site on Eglinton Ave. W. and was then hit by falling concrete. He was immediately rushed to Mississauga Hospital with serious injuries, but is expected to make a full recovery.

lockoutSeveral hours earlier, at about 10:15 a.m., a worker at a packaging business near the Hershey Centre suffered what were described as life-threatening injuries when his left arm became trapped in an unspecified industrial machine. Though an air ambulance was called and arrived at the scene, the worker was taken to hospital by land ambulance.

The Ministry of Labour is looking into both incidents, to see if any workplace health and safety rules had been violated.

Three Companies Charged In 2012 Toronto Stage Collapse

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

scaffoldA deadly stage collapse that happened last year at Toronto’s Downsview Park has led the Ontario Ministry of Labour to lay 12 charges total against three different companies, as well as one against an engineer, individually.

The violations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act came as the result of an accident in which a large portion of the outdoor stage collapsed and fell as technicians were setting up for a June 16, 2012 Radiohead concert. The collapse killed one member of the band’s road crew and injured three other workers.

Concert promotion companies Live Nation Canada Inc. and Live Nation Ontario Concerts GP Inc., as well as Optex Staging and Services Inc., face four counts each for their alleged failure to ensure the stage was being built in a safe manner. The engineer in charge of building the stage was charged with one count offering negligent or incompetent advice or certification that led to the endangerment of a worker.
A spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Labour said the first appearance for those charged is scheduled for June 27 at the Ontario Court of Justice in Toronto.