Blog Post #708 – Willow Hawk Farms Inc. Fined $18,000 after Worker Injured

Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

Willow Hawk Farms Inc., a small family farming operation, has been fined $18,000 after a worker was injured by a mechanism used in processing soybeans.

On April 16, 2013, a worker was employed at the farming operation located at 569757 Carson Line in Bayham, Ontario, sweeping soybeans into a dryer bin. The device uses two augers to move crop products – in this case, soybeans – into the centre of the bin. A sweep auger is located on top of the floor of the bin while a floor auger is located beneath it. Both augers have a ‘flight’ or shaft with a broad helical flange which rotates when the auger is under power. One end of the sweep auger is fixed in the centre of the floor and the other end moves in an arc across the floor. While it does so, the flight rotates toward the centre to move the soybeans.

The sweep auger was rotating while the worker was sweeping soybeans missed by the flight into the centre. As it rotated, the worker’s clothing was caught in the auger and the worker was thrown forward into the path of the auger. One leg was caught under the auger and the worker suffered a laceration and soft tissue damage to the leg. A Ministry of Labour investigation followed.

The manual of operating instructions for the augur states several times that no one should enter the bin unless the power to the sweep auger is disconnected and locked out. On the day in question, the sweep auger was not disconnected.

Willow Hawk Farms pleaded guilty to failing to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that the manufacturer’s instructions for safe operation of the bin sweep auger were complied with and was fined $18,000 by Justice of the Peace Sonia Aleong.

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:

Willow Hawk Farms was found guilty of a contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, (OHSA) section 25 (2) (h) which states,

“The employer shall,

Take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.”

In the ‘Industrial’ sector there is a prominent section covering electrical lockout and tagout. Section 42 of the Ontario ‘Industrial’ regulation 851/90, sections 1 and 2 state,

(1) “The power supply to electrical installations, equipment or conductors shall be disconnected, locked out of service and tagged before any work is done, and while it is being done, on or near live exposed parts of the installations, equipment or conductors.”

(2) “Before beginning the work, each worker shall determine if the requirements of subsection (1) have been complied with.”

The farming regulation 414 is very small and very difficult to enforce. Usually commercial farms are the ones targeted by the MOL but I cannot say how this works in the future. Until then, the occupational health and safety act (OHSA) will have to suffice when dealing with the farming community.

Every employer shall take all reason precautions to protect their workers. The expectations are there and the employer MUST comply.

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’, ‘Lockout and Tagout’ 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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