Recently, an Ontario court dismissed Occupational Health and
Safety Act charges against an employer where the injured
worker's unexpected and unauthorized act led to his injury.
The worker used an overhead crane to rotate a large spindle that
weighed about 10,000 pounds. He threaded a piece of rebar through
one of the holes on the spindle and attached hooks for the overhead
crane to each end of the rebar. Tragically, the spindle fell off
its stand and onto his foot, which had to be amputated.
The Ministry of Labour charged the employer with failing to
ensure that the spindle was moved safely and failing to properly
train the injured worker.
The court concluded that the injured worker's supervisor had
not instructed him to rotate the spindle. The court also concluded
that a reasonable employer could not have foreseen that the injured
worker would rotate the spindle on his own and do it in the manner
that he did, because: there was no evidence that a junior employee
had ever previously tried to move a large piece of equipment like
the spindle before; there was an unwritten protocol in place which
the injured worker acknowledged that he understood; the way in
which the worker rotated the spindle was contrary to his training;
and he attempted to rotate the spindle on his own even though that
work had always been done by material handlers or supervisors. The
injured worker conceded that he had failed to follow his
Further, the employer had provided an orientation session and
overhead crane training to the injured worker.
Interestingly, the court also noted that the Ministry of Labour
had not issued a stop work order requiring the employer to stop
rotating spindles, suggesting that the inspector must have
concluded that the employer's procedure was adequate for the
protection of workers.
In conclusion, the court held that the employer had established
due diligence: it took every reasonable precaution in the
circumstances, and could not have anticipated that the injured
worker would rotate the spindle. The OHSA charges were
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