Blog Post #894 – Cleaning Crew Affected by Carbon Monoxide, Employer Fined $75,000

Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

Ground Maintenance Cleaning Contractors Inc. (GMCC Inc.), a property maintenance business, pleaded guilty and was fined $75,000 for failing to protect the health and safety of a crew of workers from exposure to carbon monoxide gas in a parking garage. One of the workers collapsed on site and later died.

The incident occurred on May 28, 2014 at a condominium building located at 15 Torrance Road in Scarborough. GMCC was hired by the condominium corporation to power wash the underground parking garage. The six workers were using four gasoline-powered washers to perform the work; the power washers emit carbon monoxide (CO) gas.

While the workers were power washing, the internal exhaust fans in the garage stopped working. The building superintendent told the GMCC Inc. supervisor that an electrician should be on site to repair the fans. Meanwhile, the workers continued to work with portable fans in use.

One worker later exited the garage and collapsed on the sidewalk. The worker was transported to hospital by ambulance and was later pronounced dead from carbon monoxide toxicity. The remaining workers were taken to hospital where they were treated for carbon monoxide exposure and released. These workers did not suffer any lasting health issues as a result of the incident.

The investigation by the Ministry of Labour revealed that the GMCC Inc. work crew and supervisor had not received any formal training on the hazards of carbon monoxide or measures that can be taken for protection from carbon monoxide poisoning. They had not received any formal health and safety training other than Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), and not all of them had received that training.

Ontario Regulation 833, which covers the control of exposure to biological or chemical agents, prescribes that every employer shall take all measures reasonably necessary in the circumstances to limit the exposure of workers to hazardous biological or chemical agents in accordance with the rule that exposure to carbon monoxide shall not exceed 125 ppm at any time. The Toronto fire services’ carbon monoxide measurements in the garage found that levels had reached 425 ppm.

The company pleaded guilty to failing to limit the exposure of workers to carbon monoxide as prescribed, and was fined $75,000 by Justice of the Peace Rhonda Roffey on June 20, 2016.

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:

Ground Maintenance Cleaning Contractors Inc. was found guilty of a contravention of the Ontario Regulation 833 for the ‘Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents‘, section 4 which states,

“Without limiting the generality of section 3, every employer shall take the measures required by that section to limit the exposure of workers to a hazardous biological or chemical agent in accordance with the following rules:
1. If the agent is listed in the Ontario Table, exposure shall not exceed the TWA, STEL, or C set out in the Ontario Table.
2. If the agent is not listed in the Ontario Table but is listed in the ACGIH Table, exposure shall not exceed the TWA, STEL, or C set out in the ACGIH Table.
3. If the Table that applies under paragraph 1 or 2 sets out a TWA for an agent but sets out neither a STEL nor a C for that agent, exposure shall not exceed the following excursion limits:
i. Three times the TWA for any period of 30 minutes.
ii. Five times the TWA at any time.
4. Paragraph 3 does not apply with respect to an agent that is prescribed as a designated substance under Ontario Regulation 490/09 (Designated Substances) made under the Act.”

Ground Maintenance Cleaning Contractors Inc. was also found guilty of a contravention of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, section 25, subsection 1(c) which states,

“An employer shall ensure that,

(c) the measures and procedures prescribed are carried out in the workplace.”

Carbo Monoxide is known as the ‘Silent Killer’ and working around the gas has definite consequences. (25 PPM) for TWAEV and ceiling value under OSHA guidelines is 200PPM.

Why was there not a monitoring device added to the work to determine actual readings that the workers were in contact with? Why there not a competent ‘Supervisor’ available to completely deal with the issues arrived at by a hazard and risk assessment?

All these and more needed to be asked and answered before the job was initiated. Did the workers even know they had the right to refuse unsafe work?

Yes, there were too many questions and not enough answers.

Ensure your workplace is a safe place!

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’,’Chemical Safety Awareness’, ‘WHMIS’ 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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