Blog Post #81 – Fer-Pal Construction Ltd. Fined $90,000 After Worker Seriously Injured

Excerpt from the Ontario Government’s ‘Newsroom’

Fer-Pal Construction Ltd. a Toronto company that does water main construction, was fined $90,000 on May 12, 2009, for violations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), after a worker was injured.

On June 19, 2008, Fer-Pal Construction was working on White Pines Drive in Burlington on a project to reline the water main in the area. A worker was working in an excavation pit where a 30.5 centimetre (12 inch) water main pipe had been capped with a coupling device fitted with a fabricated steel plate. The water main was supposed to be shut off, but a leaky gate valve allowed air and water to accumulate behind the cap and coupling device. The coupling device exploded off the water main and struck the worker in the head, causing serious injury even though he was wearing a hard hat.

A Ministry of Labour investigation determined that the coupling device was not designed to be used as a cap, or designed to withstand the water/air pressure built up behind the cap. The investigation also found that Fer-Pal Construction did not have a supervisor or other competent person to act on their behalf, on site, at the time of the workplace injury.

Fer-Pal Construction Ltd pleaded guilty under the OHSA to failing, as an employer, to ensure there was a supervisor to supervise the work at all times. Fer-Pal was fined $10,000 on this count. They also pleaded guilty under the OHSA to failing to ensure that equipment was used in accordance with any operating manuals issued by the manufacturer. The company was fined $80,000 on this count.

The fines were imposed by Justice of the Peace L. Mills. In addition to the fines, the court also imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge on the total, 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:

Fer-Pal Construction was in contravention of the ‘Construction’ regulation, 213/91, section 12(2) which states,

“A constructor or employer who submits a report under subsection 51 (1) of the ACT (notice of death or injury) or gives a notice under section 52 or 53 of the ACT (notice of accident, etc.) shall also provide within 14 days after the occurrence, a professional engineer’s written opinion stating the cause of the occurrence.”

Fer-Pal Construction was also in contravention of the ‘Construction’ regulation 213/91, section 93(3) which states,

“All vehicles, machines tools or equipment shall be used in accordance with any operating manuals issued by the manufacturers”

They were also convicted (twice) under section 25 of the ACT, 1(c)

“An employer shall ensure that the measures and procedures prescribed are carried out in the workplace.”

The MOL (Ministry of Labour) felt that, because two separate aspects of the construction regulation were violated, then the appropriate section 25, 1(c) of the ACT was also violated twice as well.

Good for the MOL. They are not only going after the issues that apply by put in place the need by the employer to know the proper procedures are in place and are followed to the letter.

(Very similar to a driving infraction where they add ‘Careless Driving’ to the original charge so to cover all the bases.)

The MOL has a very hard task and must meet the problems they find with all the force necessary.

The amount of money going into the government coffers is less than what is being paid out. My understanding is that this number is huge thus explaining the activity displayed by the MOL to reduce the deficit.

Only through strict enforcement can the province better educate the Ontario companies about their responsibilities under the ACT.

I do hope, for all our sakes, that this becomes a reality.

Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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