Archive for the ‘OHS’ Category

Mining Company Fined $365k

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Mining Company Fined $365kIn the wake of two separate accidents involving heavy equipment operators that happened in 2014, last week Lac Des Iles Mines Ltd. was hit with a total fine of $365,000 last week. In the incidents, one worker was seriously injured and another was killed.

The first accident happened on February 22, 2014, as a heavy equipment operator was in the process of loading mining trucks with an excavator and the working face of the stockpile failed, sending a large amount of material onto the excavator, crushing the operator’s cab and trapping the worker inside. The material also crushed the radio, so the worker was unable to call for assistance or shut down the motor while he was trapped inside. It wasn’t until another equipment operator discovered the trapped worker that mine rescue personnel were able to get to and extricate him about two hours after the incident. The worker suffered hand and leg injuries.

The second incident occurred on July 10, 2014, as a miner was operating a scoop tram, which is similar to a front-end loader that works underground to haul ore, when he was crushed by a load of muck or rock. His body was found at the bottom of an inclined excavation, just before what is called the ‘safe-limit line,’ which designates a hazard zone to workers. It is still unknown why the worker was beyond the line or why he was outside of the loader’s cab with a raised bucket full of rock and its engine still running.

After a thorough investigation, the Ontario Ministry of Labour issued a number of orders to Lac Des Iles Mines Ltd., including one to ensure that written safety precautions and procedures were established and used before, during and after removal of material, an order the company complied with by developing a written policy that no worker outside a loader would be permitted ahead of the safe-limit line without permission from a supervisor. They were found guilty of failing to ensure that written safety precautions and procedures were established and followed to prevent a worker from being outside of a loader while ahead of the safe-limit line, which brought a fine of $300,000, and for failing to ensure that a stockpile of unconsolidated material was made safe before a worker was allowed to work close to or on top of the stockpile, which brought an additional $65,000.

In addition to those fines, which were imposed by Senior Justice of the Peace Raymond Zuliani in Thunder Bay court on January 18, 2016, a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge was also added, meaning the total cost to the company was $456,250. Yet more proof that safety doesn’t cost a company nearly as much as the alternative.

Supervisor Gets Prison Term

Monday, January 18th, 2016

Supervisor SentencedIn a move that demonstrates the seriousness with which the Ontario government and the entire workplace safety apparatus in the province may be taking the enforcement process these days, an Ontario Court judge has actually used the so-called “Westray Amendments” and sentenced a construction project manager to 3½ years in prison based on his role in a Christmas Eve 2009 incident in which four employees of Metron Construction were killed and another was injured when a swing stage collapsed as the workers were doing a rehab project on a Toronto apartment building.

This is the second such conviction for this incident. Back in 2012, Metron Construction itself became the first to be convicted criminally after Ontario amended its criminal code as a response to the 1992 Westray Mine disaster that killed 26 miners in Nova Scotia. For their conviction in the scaffolding failure, Metron was fined more than $1 million. The owner and director of the company, Joel Swartz, faced no jail time, despite pleading guilty to four violations of Canada’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

This sentence, which was imposed on Vadim Kazenelson, came after he was found guilty last June on four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. This is the very first time an employer in Ontario will face jail time for such offenses.

The judge who passed sentence, Justice Ian MacDonnell, told the court that he imposed the sentence because it was proportionate to the gravity of the project manager’s offences. “The seriousness of the offences committed by Mr. Kazenelson and their consequences cannot be doubted,” he said. “A significant term of imprisonment is necessary to reflect the terrible consequences.” He hopes the sentence will serve as a deterrence to others who make the same sorts of mistakes.

Following the sentencing, Kazenelson apologized for his role in the collapse and told the judge that he lives with the pain of what happened every day. He was then led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

Ontario Tree Trimmers Fined

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

WarningAn Ontario tree trimming and removal services company, Landgraff Forestry Ltd., pleaded guilty and was hit with a $50,000 fine after an incident in which a worker was struck by a tree limb and suffered critical injuries.

The accident that led to the fine happened on July 19, 2014,  when workers were in the process of removing two dead trees from a residence in Windsor. The owner of the company, David Landgraff, was cutting tree limbs while operating a bucket truck, at the same time two workers were on the ground, waiting for a tree limb to be lowered.

According to Landgraff, he saw that the workers on the ground were clear, so he proceeded to cut a limb from one of the trees, which was about 12 feet long and weighed more than 100 pounds. The limb had a rope attached that was strung through a fulcrum point on an adjacent tree and through a Hobbs device, which is used by tree trimmers to safely lower cut limbs to the ground. A worker on the ground was in control of the other end of the rope. However, the limb swung with such force that it apparently caused a knot in the rope to loosen, which caused the limb to drop about 30 feet, where it struck one of the workers on the ground, causing several broken bones.

An inspector from the Ontario Ministry of Labour determined that the Arborist Industry Safe Work Practices Manual, which covers safe tree trimming in detail, describes the drop/fall zone as the area where cut tree limbs may fall as being double the length of the tree in all directions and that such a zone should be noted and properly marked, so as to ensure that workers do not enter it during cutting. The employer and the injured worker both held certificates of qualification as utility arborists, which means they should have known and understood this.

Under the circumstances, the Ministry of Labour charged that Landgraff failed to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that workers did not enter the drop/fall zone, which is a violation of section 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, requiring an employer to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker at the workplace. The company pleaded guilty to the charge and they were fined $50,000 by Justice of the Peace Elizabeth M. Neilson in Windsor court on December 21, 2015.

In addition to the fine, the court also imposed the mandatory 25 per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act, which means the total hit to the company’s bottom line was $62,500, all for not taking basic precautions to keep workers safe.

Gold Mine Shuts Down After Worker Accident

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

Gold nuggetLast week, Goldcorp, Inc., the largest gold producer in Canada, suspended operations at one of its mines in northern Ontario after an accident in which a miner was killed. The suspension was ordered while officials with the Ontario Ministry of Labour conduct an investigation into possible violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and will continue until the investigation is complete.

The accident occurred at Musselwhite gold mine, a fly-in, fly-out operation at Opapamiskan Lake, about 480 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, which is operated as a joint venture with Barrick Gold Corp., which operates the mine. It happened early Wednesday, November 25, when a scoop operator who was working underground was overwhelmed by a rock fall. As soon as the accident occurred, Goldcorp launched search and rescue operations and found the scoop covered in material and the operator fatally injured.

In a press release following the incident, Goldcorp noted that they are cooperating fully with the accident investigation and plan to offer support to the family of the worker, as well as all co-workers at the mine. The company stated at the time that it is conducting an internal review of its safety procedures and promises to strengthen them to prevent such instances in the future.

The Musselwhite mine is actually one of Goldcorp’s more productive and lucrative mining operations, expected to produce between 250,000 to 270,000 ounces of gold in 2015. This is a terrible tragedy that may end up costing the company millions of dollars and illustrates quite clearly the advantage of emphasizing safety in the workplace.

Ontario to Strengthen Workplace Harassment Rules

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

scaleIn late October, the Ontario government introduced Bill 132, which is called the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act 2015. Bill 132 is intended to augment Bill 168, which came into force five years ago and required employers to draft, design and fully implement workplace violence and harassment policies and procedures under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

Since Bill 168 became law, many critics have noted that it was a great start, but it did not go far enough to protect workers from workplace harassment. As more incidents have happened to prove that notion true, Ontario officials created what they called an “Action Plan,” which is what led to Bill 132. Here are some of the major changes:

  • A clarification of the definition of “workplace harassment” in the OHSA to say that “reasonable” performance management and direction to workers will not be considered “workplace harassment,” which is good news for employers who have faced frivolous harassment complaints from workers who considered a poor performance appraisal to be harassment.
  • Workplace harassment programs will be expanded and changes made to procedures currently in place so that workers don’t have to report incidents to someone who may be the alleged harasser and to make sure that information about the complaint is not disclosed unless such disclosure is necessary for investigative purposes or for the purpose of taking corrective action.
  • New, more specific duties will be added to the OHSA to require an employer to conduct a thorough investigation into incidents and complaints and to make sure both the alleged victim and the alleged harasser be fully informed in writing of the results of the investigation and any corrective action taken.
  • All workplace harassment programs will require an annual review, in order to ensure that the employer’s workplace harassment policy is being implemented adequately.
  • It will also grant inspectors from the Ministry of Labour more power to investigate a workplace harassment incident. They will also have the discretion to appoint someone they believe is qualified as an “impartial person” to conduct an investigation and issue a written report. The inspector will also have the discretion to order the employer to pay the costs incurred by bringing in that “impartial person.”

Bill 132 will bring changes, so employers should be ready if and when it does. Employers will have to amend their policies and procedures, so as to  specifically include “workplace sexual harassment” and they will have to strengthen those harassment policies and procedures and be fully prepared to take every complaint seriously and investigate thoroughly. The target date for putting Bill 132 into force is July 1, 2016, which may seem far away, but it really isn’t. It might be good to prepare now.

Manitoba Investigating Safety of Winnipeg Trash Workers

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Trash TruckSince 2013, Emterra, the company the City of Winnipeg has contracted with to pick up garbage and recycling, has seen 85 claims filed with the Manitoba’s Workers Compensation Board for a number of injuries, some of them relatively serious. In addition, the Manitoba Ministry of Labour has issued 13 stop-work orders, two administrative penalties and 58 improvement orders to the company, including a number for failure to follow safe work procedures, as well as their failure to provide personal protective equipment and competent worker supervision.

Also, earlier this month, the City of Winnipeg announced their intent to investigate the company and noted that they have responded to five serious incidents and received 23 complaints from employees and the public since the company took over trash collection in the city. Among the serious incidents include one in which a temporary worker was run over by an Emterra trash collection truck, another in which a worker became caught between a truck and a hydro pole and yet another in which a worker suffered smoke inhalation and a serious head injury in a fire.

Some officials suggest that the safety issues may be rooted in the fact that Emterra relies on subcontractors who hire temporary day labourers, who may not receive the proper training or the proper clothing or protective equipment. They point out that one key reason for all of the claims is that workers are not using the truck’s mechanisms to lift things safely. Some have pointed out that these health and safety issues were not present when Winnipeg city employees operated garbage and recycling pickup services.

This issue has been festering for a while. For example, every day, Emterra hires as many as 20 workers to haul trash through a company called EZ Workforce, but back in June, the province issued a stop-work order to EZ Workforce based on what they found to be problems with the provision and required use of personal protective equipment, most specifically, the requirement that all workers wear steel-toed shoes.

It is not known how long the current investigations will continue.

Hamilton Grocer Out $75,000 for Grinder Incident

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

meat grinderIn a prime example of how failing to make sure all machines in the workplace are properly monitored for safety and to train and properly supervise workers to make sure they consider safety a major priority comes this story, in which Nations Fresh Foods, a grocery store in Hamilton, Ontario, pleaded guilty last week and was hit with a fine of $60,000 for its role in an accident that happened on August 15, 2013, in which a worker was critically injured while operating a meat grinding machine.

On that date, a supervisor at the store, located on King Street West, told the worker to use a meat mincing/grinding machine to grind chicken. The machine, a table-top model, operates by pushing pieces of meat into a small inlet that leads into a shaft and to an auger, which grinds the meat and pushes it out of the front of the grinder.

The machine is equipped with a specially designed guard that is installed with screws and is supposed to keep the operator’s fingers out of the inlet area, and a plunger actually pushes the meat through the machine into the auger area. Unfortunately, at the time the accident occurred, the guard was not in place and the worker was feeding meat directly into the inlet area by hand. As one can guess, by doing this, the worker’s hand came in contact with the moving auger, which resulted in what was only described by the court as “a critical injury.”

An investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour revealed that the guard had been missing from the grinding machine for some time before the date of the accident, possibly since the store began operation in July 2013. Since the manufacturer’s operating instructions for the machine included a specific warning regarding using the grinder without the guard installed, they were not using the machine as designed.

As a result, Nations Fresh Foods was charged with violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act, specifically Section 25 of Ontario Regulation 851, which is the Industrial Establishments Regulation, to which the company pleaded guilty. The $60,000 fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace Ivana Baldelli at the Provincial Offences Court in Hamilton, and she also added the 25 per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act, which brings the damage for this failure to keep workers safe to $75,000; all because they perhaps found it inconvenient to run a grinding machine without a guard.

How much is basic safety worth to your business? Can you afford a $75,000 hit for something so simple?

Company Fined $60,000 for Worker Loss of Fingers

Friday, August 7th, 2015

Metal shearing machineYarl Metal Fabrications Inc. has pleaded guilty of violations of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act and has been hit with a $60,000 fine, all stemming stems from an accident that occurred last year, in which a worker lost several fingers while operating a metal-cutting machine that was unguarded.

The incident occurred on April 23, 2014, as a worker was cutting scrap metal with a shearing machine at the company’s Scarborough facility. The worker was operating the shear machine, which is activated with a foot pedal, despite the fact that the required guarding had been removed the previous day for work on a custom job.

As he was operating the machine, a piece of metal became hung up on a corner of the machine, so the worker used his hand to try to wipe the material away. While his hand was in the hazard area where the guard should have been, he accidentally pushed on the foot pedal, which caused the machine’s shear to cycle, resulting in the amputation of multiple fingers.

After an investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, it was determined that the injuries happened because the equipment was not guarded in accordance with the Industrial Establishments Regulation, which is at Ontario Regulation 851, Section 24. According to that rule, “where a machine or prime mover or transmission equipment has an exposed moving part that may endanger the safety of any worker, the machine or prime mover or transmission equipment shall be equipped with and guarded by a guard or other device that prevents access to the moving part.”

The specific charge to which Yarl Metal Fabrications Inc. pleaded guilty to was for failing in its duty as an employer to ensure that the measures and procedures prescribed in the OHSA were carried out. Justice of the Peace Chris Triantafilopoulos fined the company $60,000 and also imposed a 25 per cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.

That means the company is out $75 total for not making sure a machine was guarded as required. Safety doesn’t cost your company, a lack of safety does.

Construction Workers Recovering From 2 Accidents on Same Day

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Hardhat Safety manualThe Ontario Ministry of Labour is on the scenes and investigating two separate incidents at two separate worksites in Ottawa last Tuesday, July 28, in which a total of three construction workers suffered serious injuries and were transported to hospital.

The first incident occurred at a little before 5 a.m. at a worksite at 99 Bank St., when paramedics were called to the scene and treated two workers who were in their 20s at the scene before taking them to a local hospital, where they were said to be in serious but stable condition. While there were no specific details available about the cause of the accident, according to paramedics, one of them suffered injuries to his head and neck, while the other suffered injuries to his pelvis and lower body. A third worker, who was also in his 20s, was assessed at the scene but wasn’t treated.

The second construction accident occurred just a little more than five hours later, at the construction site of a new convenience store in Kanata near Teron Road and Campeau Drive. Paramedics arrived  on scene at a little after 10 a.m., where they found a 65-year-old worker with traumatic head injuries. He was immediately taken to hospital, where he was listed in serious condition.

Once again, not many details were released about what exactly caused these accidents and what happened, but in addition to officials from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Ottawa Police are also looking into both incidents.

Ontario Ministry of Labour Investigating Accident at Chrysler Plant

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Ambulance 2A 54-year-old worker is recovering in a Toronto hospital and the Ontario Ministry of Labour is investigating after he was seriously injured in an accident at the vehicle assembly plant in Brampton owned by Fiat Chrysler America Canada, Inc. (FCA Canada), formerly Chrysler Corporation, at a little before 1 a.m. on July 26.

According to the Ministry, the worker received a critical head injury while he was doing work at a press machine. It took a high-angle rescue team from Brampton Fire and Emergency Services to get the worker down safely, after which he was taken to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. While the injuries were considered severe, they are no longer considered to be life-threatening.

The Ministry of Labour began their investigation of the huge plant and issued two orders almost immediately. For one, FCA Canada was ordered to put in place measures and procedures designed to make doing maintenance work on the press machine safe, while the second was to ensure that workers are trained on the new measures and procedures.

According to Ministry officials, both orders have been complied with, but they continue to investigate the plant, which covers almost three million square feet and employs more than 3,000 workers. The plant assembles a number of popular vehicles, including the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger.  Their investigation will focus on what safeguards are in place to prevent accidents like these and others, to make sure the plant has proper procedures in place to comply with all regulations, including the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act and whether or not workers are being properly trained regarding how to spot and subsequently avoid hazards.