Blog Post #565 – Companies Fined Total of $75,000 after Trench Collapse in Collingwood

Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

SMRS Construction of Priceville, operating as 1579137 Ontario Ltd., was found guilty and ordered to pay $55,000 while Terraprobe Inc. of Brampton pleaded guilty and was fined $20,000 after a trench collapse that resulted in a worker being injured.

On October 15, 2010, workers for SMRS, an installer of sewer and water mains, were on a project site on Raglan Street in Collingwood. A worker for Terraprobe Inc. – a consulting engineering company contracted to do testing for SMRS – entered a trench to perform a test. The trench required shoring but was not shored; the soil caused a trench collapse, trapping the worker and resulting in injuries. A Ministry of Labour investigation followed.

SMRS Construction was convicted at trial of failing, as a constructor, to ensure that the trench was shored, and was fined $55,000.

Terraprobe Inc. pleaded guilty to failing, as an employer, to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker by not providing instruction to the worker about how to notify a supervisor that a trench was not safe to enter. The company was fined $20,000.

The fine to SMRS was imposed by Justice of the Peace Anne-Marie Puusaari; the fine to Terraprobe was imposed by Justice of the Peace Michael Frederiksen. In addition to the fines, the court imposed 25-per-cent victim fine surcharges 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:

SMRS Construction Inc., was found guilty of a contravention of section 23, sub-section 1(a) of the OHSA which states,

“A constructor shall ensure, on a project undertaken by the constructor that,

(a) the measures and procedures prescribed by this Act and the regulations are carried out on the project”

Terraprobe was found guilty of violating section 25, sub-section 2(a) of the same OHSA which states,

“An employer shall,

(a) provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker.”

Section 226 of the Ontario ‘Construction’ regulation 213/91 lists 4 soil types when dealing with trenches. This section MUST be read or at least understood prior to any digging, and for sure, any entry. I was surprised that this was not done. A tailgate meeting would have simplified things and might have avoided the accident.

As a constructor, SMRS should have been aware of such things and were held primarily responsible in the accident. The site supervisor should have stopped all entry and kicked Terraprobe of the site until SMRS was totally satisfied with training credentials dealing with trenches. (HRS Group Inc. teaches a course on trenching safety awareness and this information would have been enough to deal with such a sloppy handling of a trench entry and stop the accident before it happened)

It is incumbent upon Terraprobe to fully train their workforce and give them all the necessary information to work and be safe.

By the way, there were numerous other sections of both the ACT and regulations that could have been applied here if the worker was killed in the trench collapse.

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’, ‘Construction Safety Awareness’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. 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 –Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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