Blog Post #105 – Telecommunications Company Fined $200,000 After Two Workers Killed

Excerpt from the Ontario Government’s ‘Newsroom’

The Wesbell Group of Technologies Inc., a Toronto telecommunications company, was fined $200,000 on July 21, 2009, for violations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) after two workers were killed.

On June 28, 2007, two workers from Wesbell entered an underground vault in Oakville to inspect ducts and feed fibre optic cables between manholes. The vault’s air was short of oxygen. The workers quickly passed out, fell into a metre of water at the bottom of the vault and drowned.

A Ministry of Labour investigation found the vault’s oxygen level measured as low as nine per cent. Safe, breathable air requires a concentration of 19.5 per cent to 23 per cent oxygen by volume. The workers entered the vault without protective devices or ventilation measures in place for their protection.

The Wesbell Group of Technologies Inc. pleaded guilty under the OHSA to failing, as an employer, to ensure that a written plan had been prepared and implemented to protect the workers from the dangers of entering a confined space.

The fine was imposed by Justice Richard LeDressay. In addition to the fine, 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: 

The Wesbell Group of Technologies Inc. was charged and convicted under Ontario Regulation 213/91, section 221,13(d) which states;

“The employer shall, in accordance with the relevant plan, ensure that each worker entering a confined space is adequately protected against drowning, engulfment, entrapment, suffocations and other hazards from free-flowing material, by adequate means. (Ontario regulations 632/05, section 3)

For those that have received training by HRS Group Inc., you already know my position on Confined Space Entry. The government has an entirely new regulation, 632/05 to deal with the issue. All aspects of an ‘entry’ must be dealt with prior to the actual entry. Any decent employer knows this to be true as most put their employees first.

The Wesbell Group of Technologies Inc., certainly has never read the regulations governing a confined space and it sounds like they never have received training concerning a confined space.

The company was very fortunate not to be charged with more violations of the regulations. There were numerous ones that were contravened and the company was in-line for over $500,000 for each one if the MOL had chosen to do so.

Please, if you are an employer, read the appropriate regulation concerning ‘Confined Space Entry’. It will save a life, and it may be your own!

Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

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

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