Opening should have had a guardrail to protect workers from injury
Thunder Bay, Ont.-based Robert C. Nearing Holdings Inc. was fined $60,000 after pleading guilty to one violation that caused a worker to fall through an opening on the second storey of a structure, causing injury.
The company was also required to pay a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act, which will be credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.
The incident took place on June 11, 2019, when a worker was requested by another worker to go to a storage area behind the auto repair bays of the facility to assist in retrieving two boxed barbeques from storage. The second worker had been directed to retrieve the items by the store manager.
The storage facility was constructed by joining three “sea-cans” – intermodal shipping containers – side by side, then stacking the same size and number of containers on top to create two levels of storage capacity. The top level can be accessed via a set of stairs leading to a metal walkway running the width of the joined container fronts.
The walkway had a series of upright posts on the side opposite the containers. Across from the entrance to each second-storey container was a removable chain between posts, which, when removed, allowed access for a forklift to deliver or remove storage items.
The total width of each gap created by removing a chain was 97 inches. If the forks of the forklift were inserted into the gap, an unprotected opening between the forklift's mast structure and the posts on one or both sides would remain, the width of which depended on the placement of the forks. The width of the mast was 42 ½ inches.
On that day, the two workers were on the second-storey walkway to retrieve the boxed barbeques, and the chain opposite the entrance to a storage container was removed. A forklift, operated by a supervisor, was moved to the gap, with the forks extending into the gap.
The two workers removed a barbeque from the container and loaded it onto the forks. They then removed a second barbeque. They were in the process of stacking it onto the first when one worker stepped off the walkway with one foot through the opening, and fell to the ground.
The unprotected opening was 46 inches wide and the fall was 8 feet, 7½ inches from the second storey of the structure to the ground.
The inspector from the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development investigating the incident has ordered that a guardrail complying with the requirements of section 14 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments (Regulation 851) be installed on the walkway.
The inspector also ordered that workers be protected from falls when that guardrail is removed.
“Those orders were complied with. A compliant guardrail was installed and a procedure was developed for working with the guardrail removed,” according to the Ontario government.
Previously, Cogent Power Inc. was fined $90,000 after one of its workers was caught in moving machinery which had not been equipped with a guard or other device to prevent access to a pinch point, causing injury.