Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

A worker, employed by North West Lumber Co. Ltd. (NWL), operator of a Home Hardware Building Centre in Chelmsford, who was removing snow from the roof of a shed, fell through a skylight. The worker was not using safety equipment as required by law.

In the winter of 2018-19 there was a large accumulation of snow on this building. In December/January, structural deformation of a horizontal support beam on the west side of the shed was observed. A third-party contractor was employed to remove the snow load with the assistance of NWL employees.

A few weeks later, further bowing and cracking of another structural support beam on the east side was observed.

On February 27, 2019 a yard supervisor assembled two employees of NWL for the purpose of removing the accumulated snow load to prevent further structural damage to the building. The third-party contractor was not engaged to perform work on this occasion.

That morning the three employees held a brief meeting to discuss the snow clearing work.  One of the topics was the presence of skylights on the shed roof. These were sheets of corrugated plastic, each 2 feet wide and 7 feet long, mounted flush to the shingled roof surface.

One of the skylights was at a location near the snow to be cleared. No identification markers were placed to demarcate the skylight, which was more than 17 feet above the floor of the shed.

All three workers attended on the roof of the shed and began pushing snow off the sloped roof, which was more than 11 feet above the ground at the edge. None of the three were wearing any type of fall protection equipment and no guardrails were in place at the roof edge or around the skylights. There had been no discussion of fall protection at the morning meeting and no fall protection equipment was provided to the workers by NWL.

After lunch one of the workers returned to the roof of the shed and continued clearing snow.  While doing so the worker stepped on the skylight, broke through and fell to the ground below, suffering injuries.

The supervisor re-attended on the shed roof to finish clearing the snow and to measure the skylight opening and install a temporary cover. The supervisor was not wearing fall protection. The injured worker did not have training in working at heights.

The regulation requires workers to use a safety belt or harness and lifeline when exposed to the hazard of falling more than 3 metres (about 10 feet).

Following a guilty plea, on December 01, 2020, North West Lumber Co. Ltd. was fined $55,000 in provincial offences court in Sudbury by Justice of the Peace Kathleen M. Bryant; Crown Counsel Wes Wilson.

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.

My opinion

The law(s) in contravention:

North West Lumber Company Ltd. was found guilty of a contravention of the Ontario Industrial sector regulation 851/90, section 85, subsection (a) which states,

“Where a worker is exposed to the hazard of falling and the surface to which he or she might fall is more than three metres below the position where he or she is situated,

  • the worker shall wear a serviceable safety belt or harness and lifeline that is adequately secured to a fixed support and so arranged that the worker cannot fall freely for a vertical distance of more than 1.5 metres.”

This is contrary to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) section 25, subsection 1(c) which states,

“An employer shall ensure that,

  • the measures and procedures prescribed are carried out in the workplace.”

Fall Protection is mandatory on any worksite. The supervisor should have been properly aware of this but was not. This is reflective is respect of the company fine and not one directly aimed at the supervisor. The company could have easily been charged with section 25, subsection 2(c) of the OHSA which states,

“An employer shall,

  • when appointing a supervisor, appoint a competent person.”

This type of accident should never happen if the employer takes proper precautions when dealing with any job or operation on the worksite.

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Fall Protection’ and Working at Heights’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at info@hrsgroup.com

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.