The Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, with over 50 elementary and secondary schools, was fined $100,000, plus a 25% victim surcharge, recently for a breach of the Occupational Health and Safety Act relating to the death of a school employee.

The deceased employee, an energy management systems technician, was accessing an electrical panel using a laptop computer to troubleshoot a mechanical problem with a cooling system. He was discovered lying on the floor of the mechanical room of a Collingwood school. It appears that the technician, who was not wearing personal protective equipment, suffered a fatal electrocution when he inadvertently made contact with a live high-voltage electrical panel that controlled the cooling tower.

Although the school board had put in place procedures that required live power to be locked out before any maintenance work was carried out, the Ministry of Labour deemed the procedures to be insufficient as they failed to adequately warn a worker of all the hazards of working near live power and did not specify in writing the requirement for personal protective equipment. The school board plead guilty as an employer to one count under section 25(2)(h) of the OHSA for a failure to take every precaution reasonable for the protection of a worker.

This case underscores the importance of implementing written job procedures and identifying and informing workers of potential hazards relating to a particular task.