Blog Post #836 – Company and Supervisor Plead Guilty, Fined After Worker Killed

Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

Professional Valve Service Ltd. and a supervisor pleaded guilty and were fined a total of $130,000 after a worker was killed while disassembling a valve for routine cleaning and maintenance.

On February 10, 2014, a worker was given the task of performing maintenance on a Fort Vale vacuum valve at the company’s premises at 1143 Vanier Road in Sarnia. The company is in the business of repairing and maintaining vacuum valves for industrial applications.

The shop’s procedure for disassembling the valve required decompression of an internal spring. This was done by the insertion of a threaded rod through a hole in the valve cap. The procedure utilized by Professional Valve differed from that recommended by the Fort Vale manufacturer. The Fort Vale procedure involved the use of a drill press to remove the valve cap so if pressure was suddenly released, the equipment would be contained by the press and the operator’s body would not be above the threaded rod. The hole in the top of the valve is there to allow internal adjustment and not for disassembly purposes.

On the day of the incident, the worker was alone and there were no witnesses as the worker proceeded to disassemble the Fort Vale valve. At some point in the disassembly process, the threaded rod released from an internal nut and under pressure was driven through the worker’s head. The worker was found by a co-worker and died two days later.

The worker assigned to the tasks had only worked on one Vale valve before this. The worker had worked at Professional Valve for fewer than six months and did not have prior similar experience at other employers. No formal training on Fort Vale valves had been provided, and the supervisor, Joe Heynsbergen, assumed that the worker had training on the hazards associated with the company’s procedure for disassembling Fort Vale valves, with no basis for that assumption.

The company pleaded guilty and was fined $125,000 by Justice of the Peace Anna Hampson. The shop co-ordinator, Joe Heynsbergen, pleaded guilty to failing to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that the worker was sufficiently trained and/or supervised to perform the task safely, and was fined $5,000. Sentencing took place in Sarnia court on January 6, 2016.

In addition to the fine, the court imposed 25-per-cent victim fine surcharges as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharges are credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.

My opinion

The law(s) in contravention:

Professional Valve Service Ltd. was found guilty of a contravention of section 25, subsection 2 (a) of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) which states,

“An employer shall,

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

Joe Heynsbergen, the supervisor of the worker was found guilty of a contravention of section 27, subsection 2 (c) of the OHSA which states,

“A supervisor shall,

(c) take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.”

Here we have another supervisor not competent to supervise. For those not aware of the legal definition under the OHSA of the term “competent”, I have listed it below:

“ “competent person” means a person who,

(a) is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance,
(b) is familiar with this Act and the regulations that apply to the work, and
(c) has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace.”

The supervisor was not able to monitor safe operations at the plant and did not understand his responsibilities so therefore, the employer is now in violation of section 25, subsection 2 (c) of the OHSA which states,

“An employer shall,

(b) when appointing a supervisor, appoint a competent person.”

One can see how all this is inter-related. The worker MUST receive all the necessary information, instruction and “competent” supervision. It is not only expected but legislated.

I would also suggest the supervisor receive proper ‘Due Diligence’ training. If he had received this type of training then there would have been a paper trail for him to follow to ensure proper training compliance.

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’, ‘The Supervisor and Health and Safety Law’ 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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