Landscape employer fined $56,250 after worker falls from ladder

Tree branch swung into ladder, causing it to fall over

Landscape employer fined $56,250 after worker falls from ladder
Ontario Ministry of Labour determined worker was untrained, ladder not secured (iStock)

Patty Mac of Bala, Ont. has been fined a total of $56,250 after a worker was injured when they fell from a ladder. The court imposed a fine of $45,000 and a victim fine surcharge of $11,250.

On June 22, 2018, a worker, a co-worker and an operations manager of Patty Mac were removing branches from an upright tree to make way for the installation of a satellite dish. The original plan was to rent a pole saw to reach the branches from the ground but the saw was not available. The operations manager decided the branches would be cut with a chainsaw while using the employer's extension ladder. The ladder was held against the tree by the manager and the co-worker.

The incident occurred while the worker was cutting a branch that was 15 feet off the ground.

The worker on the ladder did not feel comfortable climbing the ladder with one hand while holding the chain saw, so the manager helped tie a rope to the worker's waist and to the chainsaw. The worker climbed the ladder to the limb and tried without success to start the chainsaw and returned to ground level with the saw.

The manager assisted the worker on the ground in starting the chainsaw.

The worker climbed the ladder with the running chainsaw attached at the waist and started to cut the limb while standing on the ladder. The two others were holding this ladder.

As the worker started cutting the branch, the branch swung down and hit the tree. The cutting continued and the branch swung further into the ladder, causing it to begin to fall over.

The worker who had been on the ladder fell to the ground and suffered injuries. The co-worker holding the ladder was also struck by the falling ladder and sustained an injury. The worker who fell was taken to hospital.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour investigated this incident and it determined the following:

  • the worker on the ladder had not received training upon joining Patty Mac
  • the worker did not have experience using a chain saw or working at heights 
  • the ladder was not secured in place
  • the worker was not protected from falling in any way
  • appropriate personal protective equipment was not being used (such as protective eye wear)
  • it was unsafe to direct a worker to climb a ladder with a running chain saw
  • the worker was not directed on how to safely complete the task in question.

The Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act requires that a worker be provided with information, instruction and supervision to protect the worker while performing work.

As such, the defendant failed to provide information, instruction or supervision to a worker on how to safely remove tree branches while working at a height and violated section 25(2)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Source: Ontario Ministry of Labour