Blog Post #315 – Metro Ontario Inc. Fined $350,000 after Young Worker Killed

Excerpt from the Government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

Metro Ontario Inc., a retail grocer, was fined $350,000 yesterday for a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act that caused a young worker’s death.

On August 7, 2009, at the company’s store on Erin Mills Parkway in Mississauga, a young worker was helping the assistant store manager clear materials from the top of a cooler beside the meat department. The meat department was covered by a drop ceiling made up of acoustic tiles. The drop ceiling was accessible from the top of the cooler but it was not meant to be weight-bearing.

While removing materials from the top of the cooler, the assistant store manager indicated that a box needed to be removed from on top of the drop ceiling. The young worker stepped onto the drop ceiling to remove the box and fell through. The young worker suffered a fatal head injury.

A Ministry of Labour investigation found that there was no guardrail separating the drop ceiling from the area above the cooler.

Metro Ontario Inc. pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that a guardrail was in place to prevent workers from accessing the drop ceiling.

The fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace Milagros Eustaquio-Syme. In addition to the fine, the court 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:

Metro Ontario Inc. was found guilty of a contravention of section 13(1)(a) of the Ontario ‘Industrial’ regulation 851/90 which states,

“There shall be a guardrail,

a) Around a perimeter of an uncovered opening in a floor, roof or other surface to which a worker has access.”

It is always understood that worker safety is a must. Here we have another employer not understanding the equipment and allowing a worker to step through an unsafe work surface. It was not the first time this happened or will this be the last time. As long as employers reject the notion that they are fully responsible for the safety of their workers and that trained supervisors need to be competent to plan the work, then no work area is safe. The laws are here for a reason. The green book gives the employer a chance to review their attitude on health and safety. If not, then there are enough sections of the OHSA and regulations to ensure their compliance.

I wonder if the reader believes the death of one worker was worth the $350,000 plus the 25% victim fine surcharge. I think it may well be but the Ontario government needs to keep guidelines for fines. The 4 men that died in the scaffold accident had a different fine structure. The weak- kneed judge in that case believed a total fine of around $200,000 was appropriate. I am glad that the government of Ontario is appealing the fine.

Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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