Worker's critical injuries lead to five-figure fine for employer

Employee injured while conducting HVAC maintenance work

Worker's critical injuries lead to five-figure fine for employer

Ontario employer Westdale Construction Co. Limited was fined $75,000 after one workers suffered critical injuries while conducting HVAC maintenance work.

The employer must also pay a 25 per cent surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act, to be credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.

The incident took place on Nov. 12, 2021, when a worker employed by a company contracted by Westdale to perform HVAC maintenance work was dispatched to the building.

The area on the main floor of the building had had recent demolition work done for the purpose of renovation. The room had dust and debris on the floor from the demolition process. The floor closest to the door was concrete, but approximately half-way across the room there was a transition to what was a drop ceiling for a room below. That ceiling served as the “floor” for the back half of the room. The two surfaces appeared to be even with each other.

On that day, the worker was unable to turn the heat on upon entry to the work area, and began tracing wiring across the room to the back to locate the source of the problem.

Then, the worker stepped onto a suspended ceiling panel at the back area of the room and fell approximately ten feet to the floor of the laundry room below, sustaining critical injuries.

At the scene, there was a strip of yellow caution tape strung across the back of the room, but no signage to indicate why it was there. Also, there was no signage on the door to the room or anywhere in the room warning of the fall hazards present.

“A ministry investigation found that the employer did not take the reasonable precaution of providing cautionary signage at appropriate locations to notify workers of the fall hazards in the work area,” according to the Ontario government. “This was contrary to section 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.”

Previously, Saskatchewan employer Gardiner Plumbing Ltd. was fined $20,000 plus an $8,000 surcharge for an incident that left one worker seriously injured. The incident took place on August 7, 2020, at a worksite near Île-à-la-Crosse. A worker fell when a roof structure collapsed. The worker was seriously injured.

Also, Performance Insulation Inc. in Manitoba was fined $15,000 for failing to avoid a fall that seriously injured one worker.

Other employers charged over fall protection violations include Lalli Development (2011) Ltd., 0568677 British Columbia Ltd., Kalan Constructions Ltd., Rainbow Siding Ltd. and Global Gutters Ltd.