Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’
Seavale Incorporated pleaded guilty and has been fined $100,000 after a visitor to its self-storage facility in North Bay fell through an open hole and was killed in the fall.
Seavale operates a self-storage facility at the site of an old Bomarc missile site on Highway 11 North in the City of North Bay. The site was originally part of the NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) defence system, and consisted of 28 silos designed to house Bomarc missiles. The silos were converted to self-storage units by Seavale, the present owner of the site.
One of the units was renovated in 2013 by installing a wooden floor over the original concrete basement. At the back of the unit, near the centre of the wall, an opening was left in the floor, measuring about four feet by nine feet, nine inches. It was framed in anticipation of adding stairs to the basement in the future. On the date of the incident, the hole was not protected by any covering or guardrail.
On June 4, 2014 a visitor who was not an employee of Seavale came to the unit to examine a pick-up truck that was being stored there by the person renting the unit. The rear wheels of the truck were close to the unguarded opening in the floor, and the box of the truck partially extended over the opening.
As the visitor bent down to examine the truck’s rear wheel, for reasons unknown, the visitor fell into the open hole. The fall was about six feet to the concrete floor. The visitor died as a result of the injuries.
The company pleaded guilty to failing as an employer to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstance for the protection of a worker, contrary to Section 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act – that is, for failing to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that a hole in the floor of a storage unit was protected by a guardrail or floor covering. (The OHSA applies because there were workers at the site who were exposed to the same hazard and the company is an “employer” as defined in the act.)
The company was fined $100,000 by Justice of the Peace Lauren M. Scully in North Bay court on January 29, 2016.
In addition to the fine, the court imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.
The law(s) violated,
Seavale Incorporated was found guilty of a violation of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) section 25, subsection 2 (h) which states,
“An employer shall,
(h) take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.”
Fall Protection is divided up into two distinct parts, Fall Protection and Fall Arrest. The Ontario ‘Industrial’ regulation 851/90 section 13 (a) states,
13. “(1) there shall be a guardrail,
(a) around the perimeter of an uncovered opening in a floor, roof or other surface to which a worker has access.”
Since this works out then section 14, subsections (1) and (2) of the same regulation applies and it states,
14. “(1) A guardrail shall,
(a) have a top rail located not less than 91 and not more than 107 centimetres above the surface to be guarded;
(b) have a mid rail;
(c) if tools or other objects may fall on a worker, have a toe-board that extends from the surface to be guarded to a height of at least 125 millimetres; and
(d) be free of splinters and protruding nails.
(2) A guardrail shall be constructed to meet the structural requirements for guards as set out in the Building Code.”
There was also another way to protect workers in this situation and now section 15 applies as another form of ‘Fall Protection’ and it states,
15. “A cover on an opening in a floor, roof or other surface shall be,
(a) secured in place; and
(b) constructed to meet the structural requirements for loads due to the use of floors and roofs as set out in the Building Code.
As the reader can see, this employer had many options open to them and if the employer had completed a hazard assessment prior to the accident, and the assessors were “Competent” persons as described in the OHSA then this type of accident may have been avoided.
Ensure your workplace is a safe place.
Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.