It’s worth remembering that, in Ontario and elsewhere, the definition of the term “employer” is much broader now than it was previously, and a recent guilty plea and significant fine should serve as a sobering reminder of the change.
In the recent case, the company in question, Marmora Freezing Corporation, pleaded guilty for its failure “as an employer to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.” The charge was pursuant to section 25(2)(h) of the OHSA. More specifically, the company admitted to its failure to make sure no pedestrians were present in an area with bad lighting and terrible sight-lines.
They did this, despite the fact that the worker who was hurt and eventually killed were security guards that were placed there by a temporary placement agency.
The accident that led to the charges occurred on December 13, 2011, when one of the security guards reported for duty on a shift that begin at midnight and immediately left the building for a smoke in the smoking area, which happened to be along the travel way outside of the building. One his way there, however, a car driven by another worker hit him and knocked him to the ground before leaving the scene. Right after that, a tractor/trailer reversed down the travel way, catching the fallen worker by the trailer’s mud flap and pushing him along the travel way nearly 100 metres to his death.
An Ontario Ministry of Labour investigation noted that the security guard was dressed in dark clothing, with no light or reflective components, and that there were no barriers in place to protect pedestrians from vehicles in the travel way. According to a Ministry ergonomist, who tested the visibility of surroundings, any driver would have had sight-line difficulties in the area, and that lighting was inadequate for ensuring the visibility of pedestrians.
As a result of the guilty plea, Marmora Freezing Corporation was hit with a fine of $150,000, and they were also assessed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That brings the total paid by the company to $187,500. In part, this is because companies that employ temporary workers are considered the “employer” for OHSA purposes in most cases.