Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’
A worker was killed on March 23, 2016, after being struck by a large piece of ice while working in an excavation.
The defendants were Claridge Homes, the employer of the deceased was Bellai Brothers Construction Ltd. The site supervisor for Claridge Homes was Michael Lwow and the site supervisor for Bellai Brothers Construction was Leo Simard.
The defendants were involved in the construction of a 46-storey condominium with a nine-storey underground parking garage.
This project included one of the deepest building basement excavations to be carried out in Canada and involved the digging of a 30-metre-deep excavation. Claridge Homes was the constructor and Bellai Brothers performed the structural concrete work for the building, including the footings and concrete walls. Another company was contracted to dig the excavation.
At the time of the incident, when temperatures were cold, ice could form on the excavation walls. These accumulations could result in large, vertical formations. Without warning, pieces of ice could detach from the walls and fall to the bottom of the excavation; the pieces could be heavy.
Another company was hired to power wash the ice away using hot water from pump trucks. Workers standing on a platform were lifted by a crane to access the wall where they would power wash the ice. Bellai Brothers was also periodically involved in efforts to remove the ice using its crane to knock ice from the walls. Another subtrade periodically used an excavator to scrape the ice from the much lower portions of the walls. Ice would quickly re-form on the south wall when the weather was cold.
Metal netting and tarps were hung approximately four metres down near the top of the south excavation wall face.
On February 4, 2016, a worker and safety representative for Bellai Brothers was struck in the back by falling ice from the south wall. The worker was not seriously injured and the incident was reported to the Ministry of Labour the next day; an inspector attended that same day. The inspector observed equipment used to remove ice with pressurized hot water and issued no work orders related to ice removal, concluding that sufficient precautions were being taken.
A fence was erected along the south wall. Workers were frequently warned to watch out for the ice, and to stay clear of the south wall. No safe distance was specified beyond the existence of the snow fence placed at 15 feet (4.5 metres) from the wall.
On March 21st and 22nd of 2016, the excavated rock pile in front of the south wall was removed. The snow fence was not re-erected.
On March 23rd, a worker went into the excavation to begin preparing for a new footing.
Shortly after, the worker was struck by a large piece of ice estimated to be 4 metres in length and 56 kilograms in weight. The worker was about approximately 6.2 metres (over 20 feet) from the south wall when struck. The ice fell from a location near the top of the south wall, but below the metal netting and tarps.
Emergency workers arrived and an excavator operator used the equipment to shield the paramedics from the potential hazard of falling ice. The worker succumbed to the injuries.
On March 21st and 22nd, and at the time of the event, there were several large ice formations that had developed on the south wall. After the site was cleared, another large piece of ice fell at the same location.
The defendants failed to ensure that a wall of an excavation was stripped of loose ice that that may slide, roll or fall upon a worker, contrary to section 232(1) of Ontario Regulation 213/91, the Construction Projects Regulation.
On May 30, 2019, following guilty pleas, Judge Robert Wadden imposed the following fines in Ottawa provincial court:
- Claridge Homes: $325,000
- Bellai Brothers: $325,000
- Leo Simard: $15,000
- Michael Lwow: $12,500
Total fines: $677,500. Crown Counsel: Daniel Kleiman.
The court also imposed a 25 percent 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:
Both companies and both site supervisors were found guilty of a contravention of the Ontario ‘Construction’ sector regulation 213/91, section 232(1) which states,
“The walls of an excavation shall be stripped of loose rock or other material that may slide, roll or fall upon a worker.”
This was the first time I have seen two different site supervisors getting charged and convicted at the same time. This must say that they were BOTH aware of the danger but not to the extent that they were fully responsible for the safety of the worker.
Too little too late!
I feel the fines were in line with the accident but what is the actual cost of a human life? What about the family and friends left behind?
Another sad day on a construction site. A Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) would have gone a long way in better protecting the worker. If not, then the supervisors, and managers, need to be trained in ‘Due Diligence’.
HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.
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.