Poor radio communication results in $120,000 fine

Worker seriously injured by steel tube

Welded Tube of Canada has been fined $120,000, plus a 25 per cent victim fine surcharge, by the Ontario Ministry of Labour. On May 5, 2017, a worker was injured after a 1-ton steel pipe came into contact with them. The injury was a result of the injured worker being unable to communicate with another worker due to the poor quality of the two-way radios being used.


On the day of the incident, a worker was working as a furnace assistant at the company’s facility in Welland, Ont. One task was to ensure the metal pipes coming out of the furnace moved along two transfer tables to the second part of the finishing process.


During the shift, a metal pipe became stuck on one of the transfer tables. Accordingly, the machine was shut down by the furnace operator. Once shut down, the furnace assistant went between the two transfer tables to adjust the sensor on the transfer table.


After completing this task, the furnace assistant used a two-way radio and asked the furnace operator if the issue had been resolved.


The furnace operator misunderstood the message and as a result re-started the machine while the furnace assistant was still between the two transfer tables. This caused the transfer table to move up and begin the process of transferring the steel pipe onto the second table.


Due to the furnace assistant's position, the steel pipe, weighing approximately 1 ton, was transferred onto the furnace worker's body and resulted in a critical injury.


Emergency services personnel were called to the workplace to remove the steel pipe from the injured worker and transfer the worker to hospital. 


The Ministry of Labour's investigation found that there were issues with the clarity and the quality of the two-way radios being used.


It was also discovered that some of the employees did not know how to properly use the radio communication system that was put in place by the defendant.


Under section 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act,  an employer must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker at a workplace. By failing to have a safe and effective communication system for the protection of its workers, Welded Tube did not comply with its obligation under the act.

Source: Ontario Ministry of Labour