Archive for the ‘OHS’ Category

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.

Ontario Manufacturer To Pay $300,000 For OH&S Violations

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

EMS1Ontario steel product manufacturer Essar Steel Algoma was fined $250,000 last week, after pleading guilty to violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, for an incident two years ago that led to three workers being burned by molten metal.

The incident, which occurred on May 7, 2011, happened as the workers were pouring liquid steel into a ladle from a large vat with an opening of more than 3.5 metres at the top. One of the workers was tilting the vat, while another acted as a helper and a third was monitoring the pouring by watching the opening. As they poured, there was an unexpected reaction, which caused the large vat to expel a fireball and molten steel. All three workers received burns, but the most extensive burns were suffered by the monitor, as he looked into the opening.

The Ministry of Labour investigation found the company in violation of the OHS, because workers at risk of exposure to molten metal were left unprotected by a shield, screen or similar barrier. But they also cited the company for two other incidents at the same time.  In one, on Aug. 31, 2011, a rolling trolley fell from a beam, striking and injuring a worker who was repairing a blast furnace. Investigators determined that stoppers on the beam were worn and failed to stop the trolley. In the other accident, on April 18, 2012, a forklift was lifting a 160 kilogram cart when it fell and struck a worker in the head. Investigators found that the cart had been lifted in a way that endangered worker safety.

The first incident will cost Essar Steel Algoma $150,000, while the two other incidents will cost them $50,000 each.  In addition to the fines, which were imposed by Justice of the Peace JP Morris, the company will also have to pay an additional 25 percent victim fine surcharge, as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That’s a grand total of $312,500 for three preventable incidents in less than a year. How much would it cost them to improve their safety record?

37-Year Employee Loses Arbitration, Fired for Safety Violations

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

mask and gunIf you think the amount of time you’ve been at your job protects you if you choose to be unsafe at work, a recent arbitration case in Ontario should put that notion to rest.

The worker in question had worked 37 years for a lead recycler. Lead recyclers have very strict safety rules to follow as employers, according to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, including requiring the use of respirators and to monitor all workers for lead exposure.

According to the mediator, the employee had been written up seven times over the last year of his employment, most for safety violations. At the time the employer had decided to let their long-time worker go, they had to write him up twice in two days. The first time, the worker had chosen to work in the plant without a hard hat, safety glasses and mask. The very next day, he was caught working in the plant without a  respirator, and he wasn’t clean shaven for an effective mask seal. These two incidents came less than a month after the worker had been given a written warning and counselling for much the same type of health and safety violations, and just over four months after he had served a 25-day suspension for repeated violations over a six week period.

The arbitrator cited the fact that the worker had not “fully acknowledge(d) or accept(ed) responsibility for his misconduct on either April 30 or May 1, 2012. The company has reasonably concluded that its efforts to rehabilitate the grievor have been fruitless, and that it can no longer tolerate his presence in the workplace.”

In his decision, the arbitrator noted that the worker’s continuing safety violations, and the lack of a meaningful apology, are more meaningful than his many years of service. He noted that “workplace health and safety is a serious matter. … arbitrators (must) take the mutual responsibility of employers, unions, and employees to ensure workplace health and safety is very seriously . . . Lengthy service by itself has less mitigation currency in health and safety misconduct cases than it has in other kinds of cases.”

No matter how long you’ve worked at your job, safety is always an important concern.

Fired for Safety Violations

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

JudgementIf you think the amount of time you’ve been at your job protects you if you choose to be unsafe at work, a recent arbitration case in Ontario should put that notion to rest.

The worker in question had worked 37 years for a lead recycler. Lead recyclers have very strict safety rules to follow as employers, according to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, including requiring the use of respirators and to monitor all workers for lead exposure.

According to the mediator, the employee had been written up seven times over the last year of his employment, most for safety violations. At the time the employer had decided to let their long-time worker go, they had to write him up twice in two days. The first time, the worker had chosen to work in the plant without a hard hat, safety glasses and mask. The very next day, he was caught working in the plant without a  respirator, and he wasn’t clean shaven for an effective mask seal. These two incidents came less than a month after the worker had been given a written warning and counselling for much the same type of health and safety violations, and just over four months after he had served a 25-day suspension for repeated violations over a six week period.

The arbitrator cited the fact that the worker had not “fully acknowledge(d) or accept(ed) responsibility for his misconduct on either April 30 or May 1, 2012. The company has reasonably concluded that its efforts to rehabilitate the grievor have been fruitless, and that it can no longer tolerate his presence in the workplace.”

In his decision, the arbitrator noted that the worker’s continuing safety violations, and the lack of a meaningful apology, are more meaningful than his many years of service. He noted that “workplace health and safety is a serious matter. … arbitrators (must) take the mutual responsibility of employers, unions, and employees to ensure workplace health and safety is very seriously . . . Lengthy service by itself has less mitigation currency in health and safety misconduct cases than it has in other kinds of cases.”

No matter how long you’ve worked at your job, safety is always an important concern.

Documentation is the key element to prove your case!

Ottawa Demolition Collapses Wall at Mall Construction Site

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

demolitionLate in the afternoon of March 23, a worker was taking down a pillar at the construction site of the Rideau Centre shopping mall expansion in downtown Ottawa, when the pillar broke apart and fell through to the floor below. That caused a wall to collapse in the process.  Thankfully, even though 11 demolition workers were on the scene, no injuries were reported.  Because bricks from the wall were pushed out into the walkway, police were forced to shut down part of the roads and sidewalk around the collapse for a time, as well.

As a result of the partial collapse, the Ministry of Labour and the developer ordered assessments of the structural integrity of the building. As a result of those assessments, city officials have called for a faster demolition process. Previously, the demolition had been complicated by the fact that part of the building, the former Ogilvy Department Store, had been designated a “heritage building” by the city. But the reports on the assessment recommended that the century-old building just be demolished as soon as possible and city officials accepted that recommendation.

After the collapse, the Ontario Ministry of Labour issued a stop-work order on the entire project until the investigations were complete. Now, according to the MoL, they will begin a  transition from “a controlled, selective demolition – which is a little more precise, and to move to a harder demolition, which is to just bring the building down a little bit faster.”

Ontario Court of Appeal: Duty to Report Accidents Mostly Limited to Workers

Monday, February 11th, 2013

JudgementA recent court case should allow employers to heave a sigh of relief. The Ontario Court of Appeal (OCA) has overturned an Ontario Divisional Court decision in Blue Mountain Resorts Limited v. Ontario,in which they had ruled that an employer’s duty to report all workplace injuries, as required under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), extended to people who weren’t actually workers.

In December 2007, a guest of the Blue Mountain Ski Resort drowned in an unattended swimming pool. Blue Mountain officials didn’t report the incident to the Ministry of Labour, because it did not involve a worker. Ministry officials ordered them to do so, anyway, and declared that the entire resort – all 750 acres of it – was considered a “workplace,” requiring Blue Mountain to report every incident in which anyone was killed or injured.

The Divisional Court agreed with the Ministry of Labour, ruling that the employers’ duty under the OHSA was to report all fatal and critical injuries at any workplace, even when those injured were not workers. Their reasoning was that sometimes, members of the public are subject to the same hazards or risks as workers.

But the Justice Robert Blair of the OCA disagreed with that view:

“The interpretations (the Divisional Court and OLRB) gave to s. 51(1) of the OHSA would make virtually every place in the province of Ontario (commercial, industrial, private or domestic) a ‘workplace’ because a worker may, at some time, be at that place. This leads to the absurd conclusion that every death or critical injury to anyone, anywhere, whatever the cause, must be reported. Such an interpretation goes well beyond the proper reach of the Act and the reviewing role of the Ministry reasonably necessary to advance the admittedly important objective of protecting the health and safety of workers in the workplace. It is therefore unreasonable and cannot stand.”

So, the way things stand now, an incident does not have to be reported unless there is a reasonable relationship between the  hazard that caused the death and “a realistic risk to worker safety at that site.”