Excavator operator was not familiar with full safety checking procedure
Ontario-based Orin Contractors Corp. was fined $125,000 after pleading guilty to violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act which led to the death of one employee.
The incident took place on June 19, 2018, when Orin was engaged in a contract with the City of Oshawa for the replacement of sanitary sewer lines.
One supervisor instructed the excavator operator to turn the bucket around to the ‘shovel’ position to allow better access to the soil around a natural gas pipe in the trench. On that day, excavation started with the bucket attached to the excavator in the ‘dig’ position, pulling material back toward the excavator.
The excavator was equipped with a hydraulic coupler which allowed the operator to attach and detach implements to and from the boom of the machine. The scoop bucket attachment being used was capable of being attached with the teeth facing the operator to dig back toward the operator's cab, or turned around with the teeth facing away from the operator and used as a shovel.
The worker placed the bucket on the ground, detached the bucket from the coupler, and spun the bucket around on the ground, pushing it with the coupler.
The worker attempted to re-attach the bucket, but did not follow the procedure for doing so as set out in the coupler manufacturer's user manual. Unbeknownst to the operator, the bucket was not properly attached to the coupler.
At that time, the supervisor entered the excavation to do shoveling by hand around the pipe that had been previously installed, in order to attach it to the next length of pipe. As the operator swung the bucket over the trench, the bucket fell into the trench, landing on and crushing the supervisor. The bucket weighed over 2,700 pounds and the supervisor died as a result of the injuries.
After the fatal incident, the then-Ministry of Labour conducted testing and found that there were no mechanical defects. Testing further confirmed that all systems were working properly. It is believed the failure of the operator to follow the manufacturer-directed safety checks for coupler attachment was the source of the failure.
“At an interview, it was apparent that the operator was not familiar with the full safety checking procedure as set out in the coupler manufacturer's user manual,” according to the government. “The manual was in English and the operator spoke a different language.”
The company pleaded guilty to failing, as an employer, to ensure that the measures and procedures prescribed in section 93(3) of Ontario Regulation 213/91 - the Construction Projects Regulation - were carried out in a workplace located at or near Verdun Road, Oshawa, contrary to section 25(1)(c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1.
Earlier, the Manitoba government fined not-for-profit theatre company Rainbow Stage (1993) Inc. a total of $16,200 for an incident that caused one worker to lose a hand while conducting work.