In R. v. Metron Construction Corp., the Ontario Court of Appeal
dramatically increased a fine imposed on the defendant Metron
following its guilty plea to a charge of criminal negligence
causing death, from $200,000 to $750,000.
Metron had entered into an agreement to restore concrete
balconies on two highrise buildings. To perform this work, it
acquired "swing stages". Each swing stage was
40 feet long and consisted of four 10 foot long modules held
together by plates and bolts. One of the swing stages
collapsed at the end of the working day with five workers and a
site supervisor on board, causing four of the men to fall to their
deaths. The swing stage in question had only two life lines, though
one was required for each worker under Occupational Health and
Safety legislation. The swing stage did not have any marking,
serial numbers, identifiers or labels describing its maximum
capacity, as required by legislation and industry practice.
Forensic investigations showed the swing stage collapse was
caused by its defective design and inability to withstand the
combined weight of the six men and their equipment. Had six
life lines been available and the workers been attached as required
by applicable regulations and industry standards, the men would
As a result of the acts and omissions of its site supervisor in
failing to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm and death,
Metron pled guilty to criminal negligence causing death.
The trial judge fined Metron $200,000, plus a victim fine
surcharge of 15% or $30,000. He observed that this was three
times the net earnings of the business in its last profitable year
and concluded that the $1 million sentence recommended by the
Crown would drive the Company into bankruptcy.
The Court of Appeal found that a fine of $200,000 "fails to
convey the need to deliver a message on the importance of worker
safety. Indeed, some might treat such a fine as simply a cost
of doing business". The appeal was granted and Metron was
sentenced to pay a fine of $750,000. With the sentence
imposed, the Ontario Court of Appeal sent a strong message
regarding the importance of worker safety.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
A former teacher at Bodwell High School has learned a valuable lesson from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal— it is not discriminatory for an employer to offer child-related benefits to only employees with children.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
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