Professional Valve Service Ltd., a company that repairs and maintains vacuum valves for various industries, and one of their supervisors have significantly less money now, after pleading guilty last week for failing to train a worker and were hit with a total of $130,000 in fines for an accident in which a worker died while performing maintenance at Fort Vale.
The accident happened on February 10, 2014, when the worker was maintaining a vacuum valve at the company’s plant in Sarnia. The process involved using a modified version of the manufacturer’s procedure for disassembling the valve, involving the use of a drill press to remove the valve cap, which meant that, if pressure was suddenly released, the equipment would be contained by the press and the operator’s body would not be above the threaded rod.
When the accident happened, the worker was disassembling the valve alone, so there were no witnesses, but at some point, the threaded rod was released from an internal nut and the resultant pressure drove it through the worker’s head. He was found soon after the accident by a co-worker and died in hospital died two days later.
This was just the second time this particular worker had worked on one of these valves. He had been with Professional Valve for less than six months and had no similar experience previously, but he had never received any formal training on maintaining the valves because a company supervisor, Joe Heynsbergen, assumed that he already knew what he was doing.
Professional Valve Service Ltd. pleaded guilty to failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the safety of the worker. For that, they were fined $125,000. For his part, Heynsbergen also pleaded guilty and was fined an $5,000 individually. The sentence and the penalties were handed out by Justice of the Peace Anna Hampson in Sarnia court. The fines were also accompanied by a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.
In all, a supervisor has to pay $6,000 and his company has $137,500 less in its bottom line, just because a supervisor simply assumed a worker was properly trained when he wasn’t. Another example showing that training workers doesn’t cost a company money, it pays.
In Wisconsin last Friday, U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it has cited a Cambria mill where five workers were killed in a May 31, 2017 grain dust explosion for numerous workplace safety violations in connection with the incident. As a result, the company faces fines totaling $1,837,861.
The explosion and fire killed five workers and seriously injured a dozen others, including a 21-year-old worker who lost both of his legs when they were crushed by a rail car. OSHA noted that the explosion at the Didion Milling Inc. plant likely resulted from the company’s failure to correct the leakage and accumulation of highly combustible grain dust throughout the facility, as well as its failure to control ignition sources and to properly maintain equipment.
In all, OSHA smacked Didion with 14 “willful” citations, with most of them involving hazards related to fire and explosion. The company also has been placed in the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which provides for extra scrutiny for the foreseeable future.
In a statement, Didion Milling, Inc. noted that they had been and would continue to work with OSHA and other agencies and industry experts to determine the cause of the explosion. The company also said, “… (they do) not agree with the severity of the penalties levied against our family-owned business or the conclusions released by OSHA today.” The company has said it will rebuild the corn milling facility, using the latest technology and industry best practices to keep workers safe.
For their part, in their statement, OSHA said, “Didion Milling could have prevented this tragedy if it had addressed hazards that are well-known in this industry. … Instead, their disregard for the law led to an explosion that claimed the lives of workers, and heartbreak for their families and the community.”
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited a Black River Falls, Wisconsin-based contractor, Lunda Construction, for one willful and five serious safety violations after an investigation found numerous violations that resulted in an accident that led to the injury of one worker and death of another while they were working on a bridge construction project in the Twin Ports last September. As a result of the violations, the company is facing fines of up to $105,000.
The incident that led to the investigation came when an 18-year-old worker, Kelsey Hagenson, was mixing cement and another worker ran into him with a forklift. Hagenson had only been working for the company three months at the time. The worker operating the forklift had been with the company for 15 years, but he had not been trained to operate the forklift and he also had limited use of his right hand at the time.
According to OSHA’s report on the incident, the company showed indifference or intentional disregard for employee safety. They noted that “the employer is required to provide training to all of their employees on the types of equipment they are required to operate. In this instance, Lunda did not do that.”
In addition to the citations and fines, OSHA has placed the company into their Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which means they are subject to even greater oversight and more random inspections. Over the past five years, the agency has inspected Lunda Construction 30 times and cited them for 12 serious violations that could result in serious injury or death.
A Toronto-based importer of stone and tile products, Ciot Toronto Inc., pleaded guilty last week to several violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and an importer, distributor and retailer of stone, granite and tile, has pleaded guilty and has been fined a total of $80,000 as a result of two separate incidents in two consecutive days at two locations in which workers were injured while moving stone slabs.
The first incident happened on March 11, 2014, when a Ciot worker was performing an assigned task in which he was removing bundles of stone slabs from a shipping container to place them in a Ciot warehouse located in Vaughan. At the time, the slabs were stacked vertically in bundles and secured in place with wooden braces. The normal procedure for such a task was for the worker to climb to the top of the bundles using an A-frame ladder and to use a reciprocating saw to cut the wooden braces. After that, while still on top of the bundle, the worker would wrap a 40-foot-long chain around the back of the bundle, climb backwards off the bundle and hook the chain to a forklift, in order to pull the stones out of the container.
Unfortunately, in this case the worker didn’t open the ladder. but instead used the ladder in a folded position, leaning it against the stone bundle. He then climbed up the ladder while carrying the 40-foot chain in one hand. The ladder slipped and the worker fell onto the top corner of the stone bundle resulting in a cut and a broken bone. The company was fined $20,000 for that incident.
The very next day, on March 12, 2014, a temp worker at a separate Ciot warehouse, on just his second day at work, was helping a forklift operator, also a temp worker, move large stone slabs. The forklift was equipped with a boom attachment and a scissor clamp and the workers planned to use the forklift and scissor clamp to lift and move the slabs, each of which was 10 feet by 4-1/2 feet and weighed about 700 pounds.
As the forklift operator placed the boom and clamp over the slabs, the other worker used a pry bar to make a space between the stored slabs to allow them to use the scissor clamp; the worker pried three slabs apart then walked to the middle of the slabs to release the hatch on the boom clamp, which allows the clamp to open and slide over the edge of the slabs. However, the boom came down quickly, hitting the slabs and causing them to fall on the worker in the middle of the slabs causing him to need surgery for internal injuries. The company received a $60,000 fine for that incident.
In both cases, the court ruled that the employer failed to follow the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Justice of the Peace Donovan Robinson accepted the guilty pleas and fined the company a total of $80,000 in Newmarket court on March 7, in addition to adding the 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means a hit to the company’s bottom line of $100,000 because they didn’t take the time to make sure their workers were trained and ready to move their product around their warehouse.