$250,000 fine against school board may be largest-ever against not-for-profit organization in Ontario

Worker killed when lifting device fell on him; worker was alone at the time

A school board has been handed a $250,000 fine under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act after the death of a maintenance worker.

The maintenance worker had been assigned the task of replacing a safety cage on a ceiling light in a high school gymnasium. He was working alone. While he was rolling a portable aerial device (a type of lifting device) down a ramp off a trailer, the aerial device tipped over and struck the worker, fatally injuring him.

The angle of the ramp was about eight degrees, while the manual for the aerial device stated that it should not be rolled down an incline greater than five degrees.

The school board pleaded guilty to the OHSA charge of failing as an employer to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. In particular, the school board failed to ensure that the angle of the ramp was five degrees or less; that the aerial device was rolled down the ramp with its mast on the upper or high end of the ramp to lessen the possibility of it tipping; and that there was another worker present to assist.

The court imposed the fine of $250,000 plus the 25 per cent Victim Fine Surcharge, for a total of $312,250. This appears to be the largest fine ever in Ontario under the OHSA against a not-for-profit or charitable organization. The case shows that charities and not-for-profits are not immune from charges and fines under occupational health and safety legislation.

Adrian Miedema is a partner with Dentons Canada LLP in Toronto. He can be reached at (416) 863-4678 or [email protected] Adrian's discussion of this case also appears in the Dentons blog www.occupationalhealthandsafetylaw.com.

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