On January 11, 2016, the project manager in one of the
prosecutions arising from a tragic December 24, 2009 incident
was sentenced. During this incident, four men died and a fifth
suffered serious injuries after the collapse of a swing stage at a
high-rise building on which they were working. Amongst other
problems at the site, there were insufficient safety lines for all
the workers on the swing stage.
Both Criminal Code charges and provincial health and safety
charges were laid against a wide array of those responsible for the
In June 2015, project manager Vadim Kazenelson was found guilty
on four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count
of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. He himself was on the
swing stage, but managed to hold onto a balcony. The trial judge
held that in order to determine whether the defendant fell below
the appropriate standard of care, the Court could consider the
requirements of provincial health and safety legislation and
whether those were met. Today, Mr. Kazenelson was sentenced to
3˝ years in prison. The Crown had sought 4 to 5 years and
the defence sought 1 to 2 years. The conviction is under appeal, so
the case is not over.
The employer, Metron Construction, had previously pleaded guilty
to criminal negligence causing death and put forward evidence of
financial difficulties. The Ontario Court of Appeal raised the
company's fine to $750,000 from the trial sentence of $200,000
A Metron director had been charged under both the Criminal Code
and provincial health and safety legislation. He pleaded guilty to
the provincial offences and received a fine of $90,000 for failing
to ensure that the company followed the Ontario requirements for
scaffolding. The Criminal Code charges were withdrawn. Of note is
that the supplier of the swing stage was fined $350,000 on a guilty
plea under the provincial legislation for the failure to ensure
that the platform it supplied was in good condition.
These penalties serve as a reminder to companies and to
individuals that the law treats workplace deaths and serious
injuries with a high degree of gravity. In the last several years,
all parties involved in such incidents, including individual
directors and supervisors, have come under increasing scrutiny for
the roles they play leading to the deaths. Investigations are
conducted under both provincial legislation and under the now
11-year old Bill C45 amendments to the Criminal Code.
Aside from the legal implications, there is of course the high
human costs of lives lost and lasting injuries for what may well be
a preventable situation. The importance of early identification of
risks, and the design and implementation of real solutions to
address those risks, cannot be overemphasized.
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