Can an employer be convicted and fined under the Occupational
Health and Safety Act for an accident that resulted in the death of
a non-employee? A recent case suggests that the answer is
The Ottawa Catholic District School Board has been fined
$275,000 under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act after
a student died from an explosion in a school classroom.
Students were making barbeques out of steel barrels. A student
was cutting a barrel with a hand grinder, and the barrel exploded.
Tragically, the student was killed. The Ministry of Labour
investigation found that the barrel had been washed out with a
flammable cleaner that produced vapours which were ignited by a
spark from the grinder.
The school board pleaded guilty to failing, as an employer, to
provide information, instruction and supervision to the teacher
– note, not the student – concerning safe work
practices and recognition of the hazards associated with the class
Although this case involved a guilty plea, and thus did not
result in detailed reasons from the court, the case shows that
employers can be liable even where a non-employee was injured or
killed, if the Occupational Health and Safety Act is otherwise
breached. Here, the employer's breach was a failure to
properly train the teacher – an employee of the school
board – on the hazards associated with the barbecue
project. It did not matter that a non-employee was killed;
the school still violated the Act, and the amount of the fine was
clearly related to the severity of the harm to the non-employee
– the tragic death of a student.
The Ontario Ministry of Labour's press release may be viewed
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