In our Winter 2014 Newsletter, we reported on the four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm that had been laid against Metron Construction Corp., its owner, a supervisor, and a project manager.
The charges arose from an incident in which five workers employed by Metron fell more than 100 feet to the ground when the swing stage on which they were working suddenly collapsed. Four workers died after the fall and one was left seriously injured.
The project manager and site supervisor were aware that law and industry practice require that each worker wear a life line, but failed to enforce the regulation the day of the accident.
The project manager was with the workers at the time of the collapse and had taken no steps to ensure that one lifeline per worker was available, or that they were used. As a result, he was found guilty on all counts.
In January of this year, the Court rendered its decision on the appropriate sentence for the project manager. In the Court’s opinion, the sentence that would be proportionate to the gravity of the offences and the project manager’s degree of responsibility was a term of incarceration of 3.5 years on each of the five counts, to be served concurrently. In rendering this decision, the Court considered this sentence would satisfy the objectives of denunciation and deterrence.
As for the employer, it had pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal negligence causing death as a result of the acts and omissions of Fayzullo Fazilov, Metron’s site supervisor. Mr. Fazilov had failed to take reasonable steps to prevent harm and death by directing and/or permitting six workers to work on the swing stage when he knew or should have known that it was unsafe to do. The employer was initially fined $200,000 for the criminal negligence of its supervisor but the Crown appealed the sentence to the Ontario Court of Appeal. The Court reasoned that “a sentence consisting of a fine of $200,000 fails to convey the need to deliver a message on the importance of worker safety,” and sentenced the employer to pay a fine of $750,000.
For employers, this tragic workplace accident demonstrates the importance of training employees and managers on the OHSA and its regulations and, perhaps even more importantly, that a failure to provide this training and enforce the OHSA’s requirements can result in severe consequences for all involved – management, the employer and, most of all, the victim of the workplace accident.