Blog Post #867 – Ottawa Catholic School Board Fined $250,000

Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

The Ottawa Catholic School Board pleaded guilty and has been fined $250,000 in the death of a maintenance worker.

The death took place on January 9, 2015, at the board’s St. Nicholas Adult High School located at 893 Admiral Avenue in Ottawa. The worker was employed by the board and worked at a number of different schools; on this day the worker was assigned the task of replacing a safety cage on a ceiling light in the school’s gymnasium.

The worker was working alone, and was provided with a van, a trailer with a ramp and a portable aerial device (a type of lifting device), all owned by the OCSB. Upon arrival, the worker shoveled snow out of the way, opened the trailer and lowered the ramp, which was attached to the end of the trailer. The ramp was wood with a metal plate. The ramp stood about 13 inches high at the trailer and sloped down to the ground; the length of the ramp was about 7 feet, three inches.

The angle of the ramp was about eight degrees. The manual for the aerial device indicated that the aerial device should not be rolled down an incline greater than five degrees.

The aerial device was in two parts. One part had the battery and basket and was on a dolly; the other part was on four wheels and had a metal mast folded together on one side of it. The mast end of the aerial device, which was the heavier side of the aerial device, was on the lower side of the ramp, and pointed down toward the ramp and not toward the van.

While rolling the aerial device with the mast down the ramp, the aerial device tipped over and struck the worker fatally.

The OCSB pleaded guilty to failing as an employer to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstance for the protection of a worker. It failed to ensure that:

  • the angle of the ramp was five degrees or less;
  • the ramp and the ground surface were free of ice or snow;
  • the aerial device with the mast was rolled down the ramp with the mast on the upper or high end of the ramp (toward the van) to lessen the possibility of it tipping;
  • another worker was present to assist the worker.

The guilty plea was accepted in Ottawa court and Justice of the Peace Jacques Desjardins imposed a fine of $250,000 in the courthouse at 100 Constellation Crescent, Ottawa, on March 31, 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:

The Ottawa Catholic School Board was found guilty of a contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), section 25(2)(h) which states,

“An employer shall,

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

I was devastated to have read this! EWP (Elevating Work Platform) training is a big part of our business at HRS Group and there was no reason to have had this happen. The removal operation should have been properly supervised as explained in section 27, subsection 1(a) which states,

(1) A supervisor shall ensure that a worker,

(a) works in the manner and with the protective devices, measures and procedures required by this Act and the regulations.”

If the immediate supervisor was aware of the dangers but did not discuss them prior to the operation then section 27 of the OHSA, subsection 2(a) which states,

“A supervisor shall,

  • advise a worker of the existence of any potential or actual danger to the health or safety of the worker of which the supervisor is aware.”

Again, if the supervisor was NOT aware of the dangers then he/she was not competent to supervise then the OCSB was guilty of a contravention of the OHSA, section 25, subsection 2 (c) which states,

“An employer shall,

  • when appointing a supervisor, appoint a competent person.”

There were changes to the value of the maximum fines that could be levied. Before December 14, 2017, the maximum personal fine, per contravention, was $25,000. It is now $100,000. Before December 14, 2017, the maximum company fine, per contravention, was $500,000. It is now $1,500,000.

Enough to make all owners, managers, employers, supervisors AND workers think twice when dealing with health and safety issues.

Ensure your workplace is a safe place.

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal

CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.


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