Two workers injured in rock fall incident

Ontario employer fined $110,000 plus surcharge

Two workers injured in rock fall incident
The charge stems from an April 4, 2019, incident.

Ontario employer CGC Inc. was fined $110,000 after pleading guilty to exposing workers to dangers in the workplace.

The court also imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act, to be credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.

The charge stems from an April 4, 2019, incident, when three workers were working at the worksite at 55 3rd Line, Hagersville, which consists of a gypsum mill, an industrial board plant, a joint compound production operation and an underground mine.

One worker asked another worker to assist in scaling a ledge under unsupported ground. ‘Scaling’ describes the striking, prying and removing of loose rock from the ground (i.e. roof), faces and pillars, in this case, by using four-foot steel scaling bars. Scaling bars are also used to ‘sound’ by knocking and tapping the ground to check for loose rock.

While scaling the ledge, a two-inch by three-foot piece of dolomitic limestone fell. However, the workers sounded the area and continued to scale.

As they did so, the ledge fell and ‘unravelling’ occurred, causing more of the ground and rock than expected to fall down and knock both workers to the floor. One was pinned down and suffered serious injuries. The total weight of the various pieces that fell weighed about 2,400 pounds.

Another piece of rock fell nearby during initial rescue efforts.

An investigation by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, found that the fall of ground was a gravity-driven failure caused by disturbance of the unsupported rock through the striking and prying of the rock with the scaling bars. 

The ministry’s inspector determined that the ground conditions were not adequately inspected at the workplace prior to work being commenced, and that the unsafe ground conditions on the site were therefore not identified or rectified by the workers.

CGC had a pre-job safety analysis system, but on the day of the incident, the hazardous ground conditions in Room 1 were not accurately or specifically documented and thus, corrective action had not been taken.

Accordingly, on April 4, 2019, CGC Inc. failed to ensure that the measures and procedures prescribed by section 66(1) of Regulation 854 were being carried out in the underground mine. Section 66(1) of Regulation 854 (the Mines and Mining Plants Regulation) provides that before work is begun in a workplace in an underground mine, the ground conditions of the workplace shall be examined for dangers and hazards and, if required, made safe.

The violation is contrary to section 25(1)(c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the OHSA), which requires an employer to ensure that the measures and procedures prescribed by a regulation made under the OHSA are carried out in the workplace.

Previously, a worker died from a collapsing bridge incident. Another worker was crushed by aluminum bale. Both incidents resulted in fines for employers.