On July 13, 2012, Metron Construction (Metron) pled guilty to one charge of criminal negligence under the Criminal Code and was fined $200,000 for the deaths of four of its workers, who died in December 2009 when the suspended work platform they were using collapsed. Since Metron pled guilty, the Court’s decision focused on what was the appropriate penalty for Metron. The Crown sought a penalty of $1 million, while Metron’s counsel indicated that $100,000 would be an appropriate fine and that any fine significantly larger than that amount might well drive Metron into insolvency. In considering the appropriate penalty for Metron, the Court noted that there were few precedents for criminal negligence causing death in a workplace under the Criminal Code and that Metron’s ability to pay any fine must be taken into account. Ultimately, the Court concluded that in all the circumstances (including the fine and surcharge totalling $112,500 imposed upon Metron’s director, which are described below) a fine of $200,000 plus the victim fine surcharge of $30,000 was appropriate. The Court noted that the total financial penalty to Metron and its director arising from this incident was more than three times the net earnings of the business in its last profitable year, which ended a few months before this incident. Further, the Court indicated this result “should send a clear message to all businesses of the overwhelming importance of ensuring the safety of workers whom they employ.”

Metron’s director was fined $90,000 (and thus is subject to a victim fine surcharge of $22,500) after pleading guilty to four violations under Ontario’s Occupational Work and Safety Act. In particular, the director pled guilty to failing to take reasonable care to ensure that workers did not use a defective platform, that the platform was not loaded with an excess of weight, that workers were adequately trained and that training materials were provided to each employee.

For further information, please see the Metron decision and the press release related to Metron’s director.