Customer struck by falling load, Loblaws fined $100,000

Bags of topsoil fell off moving forklift, no barriers or warning signs present

Customer struck by falling load, Loblaws fined $100,000

Loblaws, which operates more than 1,000 grocery stores across Canada, has been fined a total of $100,000 by the Ontario Ministry of Labour for an injury sustained by a customer. The company was fined $80,000 for the incident, plus the required 25 per cent victim fine surcharge of $20,000.

On April 3, 2018 a customer walking to the entrance of a Real Canadian Superstore in London, Ont. was injured by products that fell from a moving forklift driven by a Loblaws worker. This incident was captured on video footage.

The worker was moving product from near the garden centre located in the defendant's parking lot to put on display outside of the main entrance to the store where workers and customers could enter and leave the store. The worker/forklift operator was required to travel on the defendant's property along the driveway between the parking lot and the store to reach the main entrance area.

The product being moved consisted of 90 25-litre bags of topsoil. The bags were stacked on a single pallet. The stack of topsoil bags on the pallet was just over four feet in height, four feet long and 40 inches wide.

The customer was walking from the parking lot diagonally across the driveway towards the main entrance. The forklift operator was facing and driving forward towards the main entrance with the pallet raised about 10 to 12 inches from the ground. The operator stopped abruptly after spotting the customer. The load slid off the pallet, striking and injuring the customer.

Customers and workers who arrive or depart the store were in an area where they could be endangered by the movement of this forklift.

The Ministry of Labour investigated and concluded that the forklift was in proper working condition and excessive speed was not an issue. The raised load did not obstruct the operator's view but the forklift's left and right mast were visual obstructions while the forklift was being operated in a forward direction. Loblaws had a policy that required an operator whose view was blocked by a load to operate the forklift in reverse.

The worker was completing this task without assistance.

No barriers or warning signs were in place along the driveway to protect workers or customers from the movement of the forklift.

Although there was a pedestrian crosswalk painted on the driveway, insufficient safeguards were identified or implemented by Loblaws to ensure the protection of workers (or customers) while a forklift was being operated on the driveway during store hours.

An employer must comply with requirements outlined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the Industrial Establishments Regulation (Ontario Regulation 851). Section 20 of the regulation requires barriers, warning signs or other safeguards for the protection of all workers in an area where vehicle or pedestrian traffic may endanger the safety of any worker.

Loblaws failed to ensure measures and procedures outlined in section 20 of the regulation were carried out at this workplace and thereby did violate section 25(1)(c) of the OHSA.

Source: Ontario Ministry of Labour