An Ontario company was recently fined $250,000 and two of its directors were each ordered to serve 25 days in jail as a result of a workplace fatality.

Background

According to an Ontario Ministry of Labour press release, on January 18, 2013, an employee of New Mex Canada Inc. (an Ontario company) was using a combination forklift/operator-up platform that had been modified to include an additional platform. The added platform did not have a guardrail around it and the employee was not wearing fall protection or safety shoes. The employee was found dead on the floor beside the modified equipment and the cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head.

The Ministry of Labour investigation found multiple violations under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (the Act) and the regulation relating to industrial establishments (the Regulation), including the absence of health and safety training provided to the workers in the warehouse and the provision of fall-protection equipment.

The Regulation applies to industrial workplaces and requires that workers who are exposed to the hazard of falling more than three metres must wear fall-protection equipment including a safety belt or harness. The Act requires employers to ensure that the safety measures prescribed by the Regulation are carried out in the workplace.

Convictions for the Company and Directors

The two directors pleaded guilty to failing, as directors, to take reasonable care that the company complied with the Act and the Regulation. Both directors were sentenced to 25 days in jail and ordered to take a health and safety course within 60 days of being sentenced.

New Mex Canada Inc. pleaded guilty to failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker regarding fall-protection and/or working from a height as well as failing as an employer to ensure the safety measures required by law were carried out. The company was fined $250,000.

Conclusion

This decision is a stark reminder of the importance of health and safety in the workplace, and the serious consequences for the various workplace parties, which includes not only the employer and its directors, but also supervisors, constructors and workers, for failing to fulfill their obligations under applicable occupational health and safety legislation.