Blog Post #897 – Firm, Supervisor Fined Following Collapse

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

Nine months after a construction worker was partly buried and injured after a wall collapse in a trench, the injured worker’s employer and supervisor were fined $125,000 and $5,000 respectively, on August 11, 2017.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL), the incident occurred on November 03, 2016 when an employee of R.M. Belanger was about to do cleanup work in a trench that the company was excavating in Greater Sudbury. One of the trench walls collapsed on the worker, injuring his legs.

The Ministry’s subsequent investigation found that the walls had not been properly sloped and that the site supervisor had failed to ensure that the worker had been following appropriate measures and procedures on wearing proper protective devices.

R.M. Belanger pleaded guilty to violating section 25, subsection 1 (c) of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), while the supervisor pleaded guilty to contravening section 27, subsection 1 (a) of the OHSA.

My opinion

The law(s) in contravention:

The supervisor was found guilty of section 27, subsection 1 (a) of the OHSA which states,

“A supervisor shall ensure that a worker,

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

R.M. Belanger was found guilty of a contravention of section 25, subsection 1 (c) of the same Act which states,

“An employer shall ensure that,

  • the measures and procedures prescribed are carried out in the workplace.”

R.M. Belanger should have read section 226 of the Ontario ‘Construction’ regulation 213/91 on soil types. I have listed the definitions of the 4 types below,

Type 1 soil,

(a) is hard, very dense and only able to be penetrated with difficulty by a small sharp object;

(b) has a low natural moisture content and a high degree of internal strength;

(c) has no signs of water seepage; and

(d) can be excavated only by mechanical equipment.

Type 2 soil,

(a) is very stiff, dense and can be penetrated with moderate difficulty by a small sharp object;

(b) has a low to medium natural moisture content and a medium degree of internal strength; and

(c) has a damp appearance after it is excavated.

Type 3 soil is,

(a) previously excavated soil; or

(b) soil that is stiff to firm or compact to loose in consistency and has one or more of the following characteristics:

(i) It exhibits signs of surface cracking.

(ii) It exhibits signs of water seepage.

(iii) If it is dry, it may run easily into a well-defined conical pile.

(iv) It has a low degree of internal strength.

Type 4 soil,

(a) is soft to very soft and very loose in consistency, very sensitive and upon disturbance is significantly reduced in natural strength;

(b) runs easily or flows, unless it is completely supported before excavating procedures;

(c) has almost no internal strength;

(d) is wet or muddy; and

(e) exerts substantial fluid pressure on its supporting system.

The type of soil determines the type of protection needed to work in or around the trench. There can be benching, shoring or sloping in place and there are standards for each. R.M. Belanger and the supervisor obviously did not read that section.

Too bad for the employee.

By the way, the company did not understand competency standards as listed in the “Definitions” section of the OHSA.

“ “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.”

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’, ‘Trenching Safety Awareness’ 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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