Blog Post #1319 – Death of Worker Results in Trial, Fine of $210,000 for Chelmsford Construction Company

Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

A worker, employed by R.M.Bélanger Ltd. of Chelmsford, Ontario, was killed when a wooden telephone pole rolled while it was being loaded with a forklift onto a trailer. R.M. Belanger Ltd. is a company that provides institutional, commercial and industrial construction services.

In September of 2018 R.M. Bélanger Limited was using the parking lot of a golf course in Sudbury to store a number of wooden telephone poles. On September 17 of that year, a worker was dispatched with a truck and flatbed trailer to pick up a pole for use on a Bélanger construction site.

At the golf course, a Bélanger worker, who was also a supervisor, was working on the site. When the Bélanger truck pulled into the parking lot, that worker offered to load the required pole for the driver.

Using a machine equipped with a fork attachment, the worker picked up a pole and approached the flatbed trailer. The forks were not spread apart as far as possible, creating instability with the pole as the loader moved. The pole was not secured in any way to the forks.

The truck driver was on the flatbed trailer and had placed a long piece of lumber on the trailer to act as a stopper for the pole. The driver was standing on the other side of the lumber from the side of the trailer approached by the loader.

The operator of the loader tilted the forks forward, dropping the pole onto the flatbed. The pole rolled toward the piece of lumber. The pole had a warp in it, and rolled over the piece of lumber.

The driver, standing on the trailer, tried to jump over the rolling pole but was hit by the pole and was knocked off the trailer. The pole rolled off the trailer, inflicting fatal injuries.

As a consequence of the trial, R.M. Bélanger Limited was found guilty on October 1, 2020 of two offences: failing to use a safe procedure for loading a pole onto a flatbed trailer; and failing to ensure that no worker was in an endangered position during the loading of a pole onto a flatbed trailer.

Following a trial, R.M. Bélanger Limited was fined $210,000 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:

R.M. Belanger Ltd. was found guilty of a contravention of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) section 25, subsection 2(h) which states,

“An employer shall,

 take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.”

I truly believe that R.M. Belanger Ltd. got off lucky here. There were many examples the government could have used including the “Competent Person” standard listed in the definitions section of the OHSA. It states,

“ ‘competent person’ means a person who,

(a)  is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance,

(b)  is familiar with this Act and the regulations that apply to the work, and

(c)  has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace.”

If the workplace was deemed to be an ‘Industrial Establishment’ then Belanger could have been charged under regulation 851/90, section 51, subsection 2(a)(i) and 2(b)(ii) which states,

“A lifting device shall be operated,

(a)  only by,

(i)  a competent person, or

(b)  in such a way that,

(ii)  where a worker may be endangered by the rotation or uncontrolled motion of a load.”

I was also curious to see that Belanger elected to go to trial when they were so obviously guilty. Poor advice from somewhere.

I would recommend Belanger hire a Health and Safety professional to sort out the management issues and place Belanger Ltd. on the road to safety. A little direction would go a long way.

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Forklift Certification’, ‘Forklift Re-Certification’ and ‘Material Handling’. 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
CEO & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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