Blog Post #782 – Supermarket Convicted in Forklift Death

Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

1039145 Ontario Inc., operating as Tuong Phat Supermarket in North York, has pleaded guilty and has been fined $140,000 in the death of a worker crushed by a forklift truck.

On October 5, 2013, a worker who was hired the day before was operating a fork lift truck at the market located at 309 Finch Avenue West in Toronto. The worker was assigned the task of stacking fruit in the fruit department; this involved moving fruit products from the basement to the main floor. To perform this task the worker used a “stacker” which is a walk-behind lift truck. The worker had not been trained to use the stacker.

Using the stacker, a worker could lift material from the basement to the main floor through a rectangular opening in the main floor in the loading area. A worker would load products on the forks of the stacker, manually positioning the stacker into place, and then move products through the opening by operating the controls to raise or lower the forks.

Video surveillance footage showed the worker in the basement operating the stacker throughout the day. The footage showed the stacker forks being raised through the opening and the stacker then tipping over and falling backwards. A worker was crushed and died later that day.

The defendant did not notify the Ministry of Labour of the workplace injury, as required; the Toronto Police Service notified the ministry the following day.
An engineering consultant for the Ministry of Labour concluded that a contributing factor was that, at the time of the incident, the lift truck did not have the specified battery weight on it. This would have reduced the stability of the lift truck since the weight of the battery pack acts as a counterbalance to the weight of the load.

In addition, a Ministry of Labour Ergonomist who attended the scene concluded that lighting levels measured at the incident site were well below a recommended design guideline for warehousing tasks (less than 20 per cent). The levels also fell short of an absolute minimum where safety is related to visibility, suggesting that insufficient lighting may have adversely affected the ability of the worker to see the fork tips. Witnesses reported that the worker had not received training regarding safe work procedures that would have provided visual cues to correctly perceive and position the fork tips.

The company pleaded guilty to failing as an employer to ensure that the stacker was only operated by a competent person, and was fined $140,000 by Justice of the Peace Mindy Avrich-Skapinker in Old City Hall court in Toronto.

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:

Tuong Phat Supermarket was found guilty of a contravention of the Ontario ‘Industrial’ Regulation 851/90, section 51(2)(a) which states,

“A lifting device shall be operated,

(a) only by,

(i) a competent person, or
(ii) a worker being instructed who is accompanied by a competent person.”

Tuong Phat Supermarket was also found guilty of a contravention of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, (OHSA) section 25(1)(c) which states,

“An employer shall ensure that,

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

Do you, the reader, know how many times I hear the students taking forklift training are surprised that ‘Walkie’ operators require training as well? ALL THE TIME!!! I think some have reasoned that trainers are gouging the customer and that is certainly not the case. I am going to include this particular report into my PowerPoint presentation for the HRS Group Inc. full day forklift certification and half day forklift re-certification training courses. People need to hear that all seven classes of forklifts need to be included not just those with counterbalance.

By the way, the Class VII forklift ‘Telehandler’ requires a record of training. Guess how many have received it? Yeah, you are correct, very few.

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 ‘Forklift Certification’ and ‘Forklift Re-Certification’. 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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