Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’
A worker employed by Otter Energy Inc. was fatally injured at the workplace while performing a task associated with the installation of solar panels at the workplace. Otter Energy Inc. failed as an employer to ensure that every reasonable precaution was taken to prevent hazards to workers from energized electrical equipment, installations, and conductors.
Otter Energy Inc. was engaged under contract to perform a solar panel retrofit.
On August 4, 2020, when there were no solar panels installed on the roof and therefore, no energised conductors, the worker was assigned tasks associated with preparing the roof for the panels.
Between August 4 and August 7, 2020, employees of Otter Energy Inc. installed the solar panels on the roof at the project. On the morning of the incident, employees of Otter Energy Inc. installed two CSA certified inverters on the roof at the project converting DC to alternating current (“AC”), which is required to connect it to the electricity grid. All solar panels are connected into the inverters.
The brand of inverters used were not compatible with the MC4 connectors supplied with the solar panels.
At 11:30 a.m. on the day of the incident, the worker was asked by the site supervisor to fabricate extension wires with MC4 connectors on one end and Amphenol connectors on the other so that the panels that were already installed on the roof would then connect with the inverters.
At approximately 2:00 p.m. that day, the worker was working on the roof of the west side of the building. The site supervisor attended, just as the worker was in the process of cutting off and replacing the MC4 connector on the wires coming out of the solar panel. As the supervisor arrived, the worker was observed to lean on the metal roof frame, which was subsequently found, after investigation, to have been in contact with an exposed “pinched” wire at one of the solar panels in the 25-panel string. This undetected ground fault caused a significant current to flow through the worker who was suddenly electrocuted, and despite rescue efforts, suffered fatal injuries.
Following a joint guilty plea with the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) in Provincial Offences Court in L’Orignal, Otter Energy Inc. was fined $100,000. This is a total of two fines – $50,000 for the conviction under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and $50,000 for a related conviction under the Electricity Act – by Justice of the Peace Ginette Forgues; Crown Counsel Alicia Gordon-Fagan.
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:
Otter Energy Inc. was found guilty of a contravention of the Ontario ‘Construction Projects’ sector regulation 213/91, section 183 which states,
“Every reasonable precaution shall be taken to prevent hazards to workers from energized electrical equipment, installations, and conductors.”
Otter Energy Inc. was found guilty of a contravention of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) section 25, subsection 1(c) which states,
“An employer shall ensure that,
(c) the measures and procedures prescribed are carried out in the workplace.”
Section 182, subsection (1) covers the qualifications of the electricians. It states,
“No worker shall connect, maintain, or modify electrical equipment or installations unless,
(a) the worker holds a certificate of qualification or a provisional certificate of qualification issued under the Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act, 2021, that is not suspended, in the trade of,
(i) electrician — construction and maintenance, or
(ii) electrician — domestic and rural, if the worker is performing work that is limited to the scope of practice for that trade.”
I cannot believe than a licensed electrician would cut off non-compatible connectors and modify them. It just does not make sense. The electricians I know would never complete and alteration like that.
Where was his/her supervisor in all this?
HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Electrical Hazards’. 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
CEO & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.