Blog Post #1136 – Construction Site Fatality Results in $90,000 Fine

Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

A person (not a worker) entered a building and fell down an elevator shaft, later succumbing to injuries. No signs were posted on the site warning of danger or that entry was forbidden, as required by law.

On May 17, 2016, the Ministry of Labour was notified by Toronto Police Service that a person had fallen into an elevator shaft on a construction project located at 25 Queens Quay East in Toronto. The building was a condominium project of Dominus Construction Corporation.

The incident occurred in a unit that was to be equipped with its own elevator. The elevator equipment had not yet been installed in the elevator shaft.

A worker installing flooring on the second floor of the unit heard a noise downstairs, went to investigate and heard a person at the bottom of the elevator shaft calling for help.  Emergency Services were called. The individual fell about 15 feet down the shaft and later died from the injuries.

The individual did not have authorization to enter the building and investigations were not able to determine how or why the individual entered the building. There were temporary doors installed at three entrances to the elevator shaft identical in appearance to other interior doors in the unit: simple wooden doors, without a handle/knob or lock. The knob hole was drilled out.

It was common practice at this construction site to close the access doors to the unit but to leave them unlocked while the workers were inside. Doors to the elevator shaft were typically held in the closed position by wedging a piece of wood through the pre-drilled knob hole of the door and into the pre-drilled knob latch hole in the door frame.

Although there was some signage on the external fencing at the site indicating “Danger due to Construction,” this signage was  insufficient to warn of the hazard of the open elevator shaft, and there was no “DANGER – entry forbidden” sign on any of the doors leading into the  shaft, as required by Ontario Regulation 213/91 (the Construction Projects Regulation, section 44).

As such the defendant failed to ensure that adequate warning signage was in place and thereby violated section 23(1)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Following a guilty plea, Dominus Construction was fined $90,000 in Toronto court by Justice of the Peace Sunny Ng; Crown Counsel Tom Schneider.

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:

Dominus Construction was found guilty of a contravention of the Ontario ‘Construction Projects’ sector regulation 213/91, section 44, which states,

  • Signs meeting the requirements of subsection (2) shall be posted in prominent locations and in sufficient numbers to warn workers of a hazard on a project

(2) A sign shall contain the word “DANGER” written in legible letters that are at least 150 millimetres in height and shall state that entry by any unauthorized person to the area where the hazard exists is forbidden.

(3) Without limiting the generality of subsection (1), a sign shall be posted,

(a) adjacent to a hoisting area;

(b) under a boatswain’s chair or a suspended work platform;

(c) at the outlet from a chute;

(d) at a means of access to a place where there may be a noxious gas, vapour, dust or fume, noxious substance or a lack of oxygen; and

(e) where there is a potential hazard from an energized overhead electrical conductor at more than 750 volts.

(4) No person shall enter an area in which a sign is posted other than a worker authorized to work in the area.

This was a direct contravention of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, section 23, subsection 1(a) which states,

(1) “A constructor shall ensure, on a project undertaken by the constructor that,

(a) the measures and procedures prescribed by this Act and the regulations are carried out on the project.”

Section 44 is a big part of the Working at Heights (WAH) training and it is important to ensure that signage is always available when the need arises and it is too bad that guardrails or floor covers were not installed to prevent access to the opening. A JHA (Job Hazard assessment or analysis) would have gone a long way to fixing the problem.

Please attend all safety training and apply the knowledge you have been given. That goes for employers AND Supervisors as well as workers.

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

We can also be reached at 

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.



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