At an excavation at a residence on Pine Crescent in Toronto, a worker was killed when an excavated dirt wall collapsed due to lack of support. The employer, SMID Construction Ltd., a general construction contractor out of Ajax, Ontario, was convicted on June 21, 2018.
SMID Construction Ltd. was retained by the owner of a two-storey residence to renovate the house, including enlarging the garage door and widening the driveway. On October 31, 2016, the task was to pour a new concrete retaining wall under the footing of the existing stairs to the front porch of the house.
To do so, an excavation was dug on the side of and underneath the porch. Two workers were in the process of installing wood formwork panels in the excavation, into which the concrete would be poured. One worker was in the excavation during this work. While the worker was in the excavation the excavated dirt wall under the footing of the stairs, a portion of the footing, and the foundation wall of the stairs collapsed. The worker suffered fatal injuries as a result.
The Ministry of Labour Investigation into the cause of the incident determined that the walls of the excavation were not supported by any kind of support system which would have prevented the walls from collapsing.
Following a guilty plea, the company was fined $115,000 in Toronto court, 70 Centre Avenue, by Justice of the Peace Chris Triantafilopoulos; Crown Counsel Judy L. Chan.
The court also 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) in contravention:
SMID Construction was in contravention of the Ontario ‘Construction’ regulation 213/91, section 234, subsection (1) which states,
“The walls of an excavation shall be supported by a support system that complies with sections 235 – 239 and 241.”
This was also contrary to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, section 25, subsection 1(c) which states,
“An employer shall ensure that,
(c) the measures and procedures prescribed are carried out in the workplace.”
This type of tragedy should not have happened if the employer understood the actual understood the hazards associated with trenching and placed the safety of their workers to the highest level. Where was the supervisor in all this? Was he/she trained to understand the 4 Types of soil as listed in the regulations? If he/she had then he/she would have realized that recently back-filled soil is a type 3 soil and is subject to trench boxes or some type of shoring system or benching system to protect workers. I guess no one at SMID Construction got the memo.
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Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.