As a Training Director for a Peterborough, Ontario-based company, HRS Group Inc., I have access to information concerning health and safety from all parts of Canada. As a member of the C.S.S.E. (Canadian Society of Safety Engineering) we are constantly inundated with the many accidents in the workplace all across Canada, any subsequent fines or jail time, and any possible corrective action applied to ensure the accident(s) do not have a recurrence.
I must make my views known concerning a horrible accident from a Rona lumber yard in St. Albert, near Edmonton, Alberta. In August 2008, two teenage boys, one 17 and the other, Mitchell Tanner, just 16 years of age, noticed a large forklift in the yard, and decided to take it for a joyride. Mitchell was thrown off and killed. Neither teenager had a forklift record of training. The lack of proper supervision was very apparent.
On June 9, 2010, the Alberta health and safety investigation was concluded. I was furious to learn that no charges are to be laid in the death as there was not enough evidence to secure a conviction.
If this particular accident had occurred in Ontario, I believe the M.O.L. would have dealt with it quite differently. In Ontario, the standard is “All Accidents are Preventable.” In this particular case, the following charges would have been available to our inspectors;
1) Section 25, Sub Section 2(a)
– The employer shall provide information, instruction and supervision to protect the health and safety of the worker
2) Section 25, Sub Section 2(h)
– The employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of the worker.
Mitchell was only 16 years of age and only on his second shift at the Rona store when the accident occurred. Did he receive proper instruction and orientation? I think not. Did his supervisor do everything possible to protect his worker? Again, I think not. His employment orientation include the dangers around a forklift including ‘tipovers’? I know not!
As an example of a similar incident in Ontario, during 1999, David Ellis, an 18 year student, was killed in a bakery accident. He received severe head trauma when the dough mixing machine he worked on was turned on. The company, New Sun Cookies, received fines and jail time for the following infractions;
1) Under the OHSA and its regulations, Section 24 and 26 of the regulations involve machine guarding
2) Under the OHSA and its regulations, Section 42 (1) deals with lockout and tagout procedures for electrical equipment
3) Since David was on his second day of the job, the MOL further charged them with section 25, subsection 2(A and H)
They received fines totaling more than $62,000 and one of the owners/supervisors became the first person sent to jail for an occupational death.
As a member of the health and safety community, and a trainer of numerous courses, it is my opinion that Ontario takes a hard line approach when dealing with either critical injuries and/or deaths in the workplace. I had to vent my displeasure when reading the final report on the death of Mitchell Tanner. There WAS enough evidence for a conviction in Ontario but not enough for our sister province, Alberta. Remember, “All Accidents are Preventable.” What if all of Canada, not just Ontario, worked harder to protect its workers, and make possible changes to current legislation that will give health and safety inspectors more to work with. What a novel idea! Bill C-45 was created to promote just that purpose.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.