Blog Post #402 – Manufacturer Fined $70,000 after Worker Injured

Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

Washington Mills Electro Minerals Corporation, a manufacturer of mineral products, was fined $70,000 for a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act after a worker was injured.

On October 4, 2010, at the company’s facility in Niagara Falls, minerals had been melted in a furnace and were being poured into pots on a rail car that moved along a track to and from the furnace. As the rail car was carrying two full and two empty pots, it passed a movable conveyor that was on its own tracks. The conveyor was close enough to the rail car’s path that one of the full pots on the car rubbed against the conveyor. A hose attached this pot was torn off. A worker noticed and went to remove the hose from the tracks as the rail car was on its way back. As the rail car passed the conveyor a second time, the same pot rubbed against the conveyor and tipped off the rail car, striking the worker. The worker suffered third degree burns and serious injuries to the torso and hip.

Washington Mills Electro Minerals Corp. pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that the pots were transferred in a way that prevented the pots from tipping or falling.

The fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace Mary Shelley. 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:

Washington Mills Electro Minerals Corp. was found guilty of a contravention of section 45 (b) of the Ontario ‘Industrial’ regulation 851/90 which states,

“Materials, articles or things, shall be transported, placed or stored so that the material, articles or things,

i. Will not tip, collapse or fall, and
ii. Can be removed or withdrawn without endangering the safety of any worker.”

Where was the engineer that bought off on the conveyor in relation to the tracks? Did anyone not notice that the conveyor was close enough to have made intermittent contact with the rail car? My next question is “how long was this system in place and where was the trial run to review the process to ensure that there was no hazards associated with the design or build of the process?

The design stage is the time and phase of the program where the hazards are recognized and the process developed with that in mind. An employer needs to hire better design engineers that have a health and safety background to point out the mistakes made here and have a voice when the final decisions are made.

In this day and age, we find more employers not understanding their responsibilities for the protection of the worker. I can find at least 2 more sections of the OHSA that was violated that would have placed the fines well over the $100,000 limit. There was no need for this accident to have happened if proper care was taken when designing the process from the ground on up. All it would have taken was someone realizing that there was a possibility for an employee to get hurt and the changes could have been made.

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety need including ‘Material Handling’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at 

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

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

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