National Steel Car fined $140K in workplace death

Fraser Cowan was killed while operating a crane in 2020

National Steel Car fined $140K in workplace death
National Steel Car in Hamilton, Ontario

National Steel Car has been fined $140,000 after pleading guilty to a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act related to a workplace death, according to a local report.

The railcar maker pleaded guilty on Thursday in provincial offences court as part of a joint submission with the Crown. Two other charges related to the incident in 2020 were withdrawn, as were five charges related to a 2019 “critical injury.”

51-year-old Fraser Cowan was a crane operator who was killed in September 2020 while using a remote control to operate a 20-tonne overhead crane, reports the Toronto Star, citing an agreed statement of facts read in court.

Cowan was moving a metal “lift-assist device” into position to connect with a railcar when it slipped off the crane hook and fell on him.  The company admitted it failed to ensure the “hoisting controls” for the overhead crane were located at a safe distance from the load being lifted.

Cowan was a father of two young daughters and his ex-wife, Trudy Cowan, is quoted as saying the “pain and trauma” has not faded.  She calls the penalty “disheartening” and says fines should be more punitive.

Earlier this year the province changed the law, increasing maximum fines for serious safety violations to $1.5 million for corporate directors.

Cowan is one of three workers who have lost their lives at National Steel Car since 2020.

The company based in Hamilton, Ontario still faces separate charges over the death of painter Collin Grayley who died in 2021.  There is also an ongoing investigation into the death of welder Quoc Le earlier this year.