Take, for example, the recent case in the Ontario Court of Justice in which an Uxbridge, Ontario construction company president was fined $30,000 for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act for his part in an accident in which a worker was killed. The fines weren’t based on his position as company president, but on his role as project supervisor.
The incident that led to the hefty fine occurred on December 15, 2009, as his construction company, 474294 Ontario Limited, carrying on business as Northern Machinery Services, was replacing a bridge on the Queen Elizabeth Way over Bronte Creek in Oakville. Company president Barry Wood, was supervising the project. As workers started to remove the concrete deck of the existing bridge, a section of the deck began to collapse. A worker fell and a concrete panel fell on top of him and killed him.
The Ministry of Labour investigation of the accident found that Mr. Wood had been provided with a copy of an engineered procedure for safely cutting and removing concrete from the bridge deck in order to maintain its structural integrity and prevent collapse, but that the procedure hadn’t been followed. To make matters worse, the workers involved in the project were not wearing fall protection at the time of the accident.
Wood pleaded guilty to failing, as a supervisor, to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that workers engaged in the cutting and removal of the bridge deck followed the engineered procedure for that task. He also pleaded guilty to failing, as a supervisor, to ensure that workers exposed to a fall hazard were wearing fall protection. He was fined $20,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for the second. In addition to those fines, Wood also had to pay the court-imposed 25% victim fine surcharge, as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That’s a total of $37,500 in personal penalties.
This fine is significant, since at least one recent study found that more than 50% of OH&S charges against individuals are withdrawn by the Ministry of Labour. That said, the ministry is less likely to withdraw them in cases where a supervisor was given information regarding proper safety procedures and simply didn’t follow it.