Workers Health & Safety Centre

Manufacturer of swing-stage platforms fined $400,000 in deaths of four workers

Manufacturer of swing-stage platforms fined $400,000 in deaths of four workers
An Ottawa-based company that supplied the swing stage platform that collapsed on December 24, 2009, resulting in the deaths of four workers has been fined a total of $400,000.

On Christmas Eve, 2009, six migrant workers were working on a swing-stage at a Toronto high-rise building when the scaffolding broke in half and collapsed, plunging the men 13 stories to the ground. Four of the workers were killed and one seriously injured.

The workers were employed by Metron Construction Corporation of Toronto. They were conducting balcony restoration on an apartment building on Kipling Avenue in Toronto. Swing N Scaff Inc. manufactured and supplied the swing stage that collapsed. After a forensic examination of the swing stage, Ministry of Labour investigators found it was not fit for its intended use as fabricated. In particular, the welds on the platform were inadequate.

Swing N Scaff Inc. pleaded guilty to failing to ensure a suspended platform and/or a component supplied to Metron Construction was in good condition and was fined $350,000.

Patrick Deschamps, a company director, pleaded guilty to failing to take all reasonable care to ensure a suspended platform was in good condition and that a platform weighing more than 525 kilograms was designed by a professional engineer in accordance with good engineering practice. He was fined $25,000 for each count for a total fine of $50,000.

Prior to this, three Metron Construction officials were arrested in October 2010. The corporation, its President and a supervisor were each charged with four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The Ministry of Labour also laid a total of 61 charges against Metron and its officers as well as Swing N Scaff Inc.

Metron Construction President, Joel Swartz pleaded guilty to four charges under OHSA and its regulations. At a June, 2012 court hearing, the corporation entered a guilty plea on one count of criminal negligence causing death. The guilty plea by Metron Construction was the first by an Ontario corporation charged under the Criminal Code Bill C-45 amendments that became law in 2004.

The Crown asked for a $1 million fine against the corporation however, the court imposed a $200,000 fine which the Crown later appealed. A panel of three judges heard the appeal and felt the original fine was “demonstrably unfit”.

Justice Sarah Pepall, writing for the panel, explained, “Workers employed by a corporation are entitled to expect higher standards of conduct than that exhibited by the respondent (Metron Construction). In the circumstances, it falls to this court to impose a fit and just sentence.”

The judges increased the fine from $200,000 to $750,000. Many believe this ruling sends a clear message to employers to follow occupational health and safety laws including the duty to inform and train workers, supervisors and joint health and safety committee (JHSC) members.

The incident of December 24, 2009 caused shockwaves through the province, prompting a year-long review of Ontario’s health and safety system and recommendations for amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations. Some have been implemented and some are pending including a recent mandatory working at heights training regulation which will come into force April 1, 2015.

The Workers Health & Safety Centre offers many training programs aimed at helping workplaces comply with training requirements including training for work at heights, supervisors and JHSC certification training.

Want to learn more about these and other WHSC training programs?

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