Blog Post #48 – Engineering Firm Faces Charges

Excerpts from the OHS Canada magazine

A mechanical contracting firm in St. John’s, NFLD, has been charged with two workplace safety violations in connection with an incident in March, 2008.

On April 27, 2010, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Government Services announced that M & M Engineering Ltd. faces two counts under the provincial OHSA. The charges relate to the company’s alleged failure, as an employer, to provide a safe workplace and to ensure that holes in walkways or work areas are securely covered and identified.

Department spokesperson Vanessa Colman-Sadd says the accident happened on March 25, 2008 at the National Research Council Canada building at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. Johns.

A crew was installing a metal catwalk when one worker, who had been using an elevated work platform, fell about seven metres to the floor below, sustaining a broken femur.

Geoff Wells, the president of M&M Engineering, says the job safety analyses are conducted before every job, including training and instruction on work tasks to be performed. In this case, workers were in the process of installing handrails on the catwalk.

The worker who was later injured was wearing a full-body harness with double lanyards. Although Wells says his understanding is that the worker was initially tied off, “he disconnected a lanyard from one point before he connected to the other and then he stepped off” onto another surface.

The company intends to plead not guilty to the charges.

My Opinion

The double lanyard has many advantages. It was designed mainly to ensure that workers were connected at all times especially when they were moving from one place to another.

The worker was on an elevated work platform. The normal requirement is one lanyard so two would have been a safer application for the worker.

The transfer from one surface to another could have been expedited safely. Since an engineering firm is involved here, could not a horizontal lifeline been added? It need not to have been too large, but, if the standards are the same in Nfld as they are in Ontario, then it has to be designed by a professional engineer- someone who understands stress loads.

Without seeing the workplace involved it sounds like the worker needed to go a long distance, one longer than the lanyard provided, to get to the next area of the project.

The company should have factored in the transfer area and added a lifeline so the worker could continue to be safely tied off right from start to finish. The gap needs to be looked at. It seems the department investigating this incident may feel the same way.

It is extremely difficult to place all the blame on the engineering firm. Since job hazard analysis seems to be a regular part of their prep work prior to any project they are showing that the safety of the worker remains a large part of their decision making and planning. Training and instruction are also signs that employee safety matters.

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Working at Heights’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at

Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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