Quebec firm fined $110,000 for criminal negligence

A Quebec judge has fined a paving-stone manufacturer $110,000 for criminal negligence in the death of a worker, in what was said to be the country’s first criminal conviction and sentencing of a company involving a workplace death.
Quebec court Judge Paul Chevalier handed down the sentence on March 17, after Transpave pleaded guilty last December to the criminal negligence charge that followed the death in 2005 of 23-year-old Steve L’Ecuyer, a Transpave employee.  Of the $110,000 penalty, $10,000 will go towards provincial programs that provide assistance to victims of criminal and regulatory offences.

L’Ecuyer was killed while trying to clear a jam in a machine. Investigators found the company was negligent when it allowed L’Écuyer to operate the machine while its safety mechanism was disabled. The probe also revealed that L’Ecuyer was not given proper training on how to safely operate the machine.

Reacting to the sentence, Quebec Federation of Labour president Michel Arsenault criticized the Crown for describing the company as exemplary in its health and safety record, when the CSST’s investigation has found that the safety mechanism that would have saved the life of L’Ecuyer had been disabled.

In a statement, Arsenault said criminal charges should also be brought against those individuals in the company responsible for disabling the safety mechanism that cost L’Ecuyer his life.

The Transpave conviction and sentencing was the first criminal conviction of a company involving a workplace death since Bill C-45 was passed in 2004.
Bill C-45 introduced amendments to the Criminal Code that required organizations and corporations to ensure proper implementation of workplace health and safety systems. This new requirement, contained in the criminal negligence provisions of the Criminal Code under s. 217.1, states that “everyone who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.”