Ontario employers forced to open chequebooks in wake of worker injuries

Unsafe work conditions lead to notable fines, sometimes even if nobody’s hurt

An Ontario manufacturing company has been hit with a six-figure fine for health and safety violations, one of several employers in the province who have received notable financial penalties recently in the wake of serious injuries to employees.

Metal tool and equipment manufacturer Sandvik Canada was fined $115,000 for a violation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) after a worker was injured at its plant in Arnprior, Ont.

On May 14, 2008, a Sandvik worker was changing a die on a machine used to shape stainless steel tubes. During the changeover, the worker's hand became caught in a pinch point between the machine's rack-and-pinion gears, causing a serious hand injury.

A Ministry of Labour investigation found the machine was not locked out before the worker began the changeover and charged Sandvik with failing to ensure the machine's moving parts were stopped and blocked. Sandvik pleaded guilty and the Ontario Court of Justice levied the fine under the act.

Printing press accident leads to $75,000 fine

The Ontario Court of Justice also hit a security printing company for $75,000 for its lax safety procedures that led to a worker’s hand injury. On June 19, 2008, workers at Canadian Bank Note Company’s Ottawa plant were restarting a press machine, which had two hydraulically powered towers that come together to close the press. To restart the press, buttons on the inside of the towers had to be reset. A worker at the bottom of the towers opened the press slightly to get to the buttons and a second worker accessed the top of the towers by a catwalk to press one of the buttons. However, at the same time, a third worker at ground level pressed another button that caused the press to start. The towers closed on the second worker's hand, crushing fingers and fracturing the wrist.

A Ministry of Labour investigation found that the press was equipped with a start-up warning device which did not sound when the press closed after being opened only a few inches.

Canadian Bank Note Company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the press was equipped with an automatic start-up warning device that sounded when the press was being closed from all positions.

Other companies hit with $50,000+ fines following workplace injuries

The courts have stayed busy recently with other employers whose health and safety procedures were found to be lacking by Ministry of Labour investigators following injuries to workers.

Hamilton Specialty Bar, a steel manufacturer, was fined $60,000 after a worker was injured by falling slag through an open furnace roof as a new part was lowered into it. The worker had no protection under the open roof.

Burlington, Ont.-based construction company Canadian BBR was fined $55,000 from an incident where a worker using a machine to pull a wire through a duct on a new bridge had his fingers caught in the machine’s pulley system, crushing several of them. Canadian BBR pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the pulleys were guarded.

Excel Heavy Haul Transportation of Windsor, Ont., was fined $50,000 for an incident where a worker was pinned to a machine being lifted onto a trailer. Another trailer was backed through an open bay door into the worker and a protruding handle on the machine pierced the worker's leg. A ministry investigation found the driver who backed the trailer into the bay didn’t have a full view of the area behind the trailer and there was no signaler or anyone else to guide the trailer.

DMI Canada, manufacturer of windmills in St. Catherines, Ont., was charged after worker was injured lifting a 125-kilogram platform onto a storage cart. Another worker was removing shackles from the platform when the cart tipped over, pinning the worker to a wall. The worker sustained internal injuries and DMI was fined $55,000 after pleading guilty to failing to ensure that the platforms were placed in a manner that prevented them from tipping over.

No accident but company fined for unsafe conditions

There were no accidents at three Toronto-area worksites of Alpine Roofing, but the company must pay $50,000 anyway after ministry inspectors observed workers repairing roofs without proper fall protection. In each case, workers were exposed to falls of greater than three metres.

Alpine Roofing pleaded guilty to four counts under the OHSA. Three counts were for failing as a constructor to adequately protect workers from fall hazards. The other count was for failing to comply with a stop-work order that had been issued by the inspectors.

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