Canada: Accident de travail mortel : un président d'entreprise déclaré coupable d'homicide involontaire

Le 1er mars dernier, le juge Pierre Dupras, de la Cour du Québec chambre criminelle et pénale, a déclaré coupable un président d'entreprise d'homicide involontaire1 suite au décès d'un travailleur2.

Faits

Les faits sont fort simples.

M. Sylvain Fournier, président de S. Fournier Excavation Inc., emploie M. Gilles Lévesque. Les deux hommes effectuent des travaux de remplacement d'une conduite d'égout au fond d'une excavation, dont la profondeur était de plus de 8 pieds et la largeur de 42 pouces. Celle-ci n'est pas étançonnée, et ce, malgré que les parois sont à 90 degrés et qu'il y a des dépôts de déblai sur les deux côtés de l'excavation qui se trouvaient à des distances non-sécuritaires selon le Code de sécurité pour les travaux de construction.

Dans ces circonstances, l'excavation s'effondre. M. Lévesque, le travailleur, est enseveli et décède d'un traumatisme craniocérébral contondant. M. Fournier, président de l'entreprise, tente de lui porter secours, mais n'y parvient pas. Il est partiellement enseveli. M. Fournier subira des fractures aux deux jambes et demeurera dans le coma durant 2 jours.

La poursuivante, à la suite de cet accident fort triste, intente donc une poursuite contre M. Fournier sous deux chefs d'accusation : (1) avoir causé la mort, par négligence criminelle, en ne prenant pas les mesures nécessaires alors qu'il dirigeait l'accomplissement ou l'exécution d'un travail ou d'une tâche, afin d'éviter qu'il n'en résulte des blessures pour autrui et (2) avoir causé le décès de M. Lévesque en commettant un homicide involontaire coupable.

À retenir

Il s'agit d'une première au Québec, en ce qu'habituellement, les personnes physiques ou morales étaient déclarées coupables de négligence criminelle causant la mort3 ou des lésions corporelles4.

Dans le cas de M. Fournier, la Cour n'a retenu que le chef d'homicide involontaire coupable qui est passible d'une peine d'emprisonnement à perpétuité5.

Une fois de plus, ce jugement est un rappel que personne n'est à l'abri d'une infraction criminelle lorsqu'un accident grave ou mortel survient, et ce, que ce soit sur un chantier de construction ou dans un établissement. En effet, l'entreprise, les dirigeants, les administrateurs et les employés de tous les niveaux peuvent être poursuivis au criminel, lorsque ceux-ci participent à la commission de l'infraction.

Bref, la Cour a déclaré coupable M. Fournier d'homicide involontaire parce que :

  • M. Fournier a eu une conduite qui constitue un acte illégal, c'est-à-dire qu'il a contrevenu à une disposition règlementaire en matière de santé et sécurité du travail. En l'occurrence, M. Fournier ne s'est pas assuré d'étançonner les parois de l'excavation conformément à l'article 3.15.3 du Code de sécurité pour les travaux de construction;
  • Cet acte illégal a causé la mort de M. Lévesque;
  • Le fait de ne pas étançonner une paroi d'une excavation, comme celle décrite, est objectivement dangereux et constitue un écart marqué à la conduite d'une personne raisonnable;
  • Le risque d'effondrement de l'excavation était prévisible et une personne raisonnable, dans les mêmes circonstances que celles décrites ci-haut, aurait prévu le risque de lésions corporelles.

Le tribunal indique qu'en contrevenant à l'obligation d'étançonner une excavation, le comportement de M. Fournier dénotait clairement de l'indifférence, du détachement, du désintéressement et révèle une absence de considération envers des conséquences prévisibles.

Bref, bien que le tribunal aurait pu aussi condamner M. Fournier pour négligence criminelle causant la mort, le juge Dupras a plutôt prononcé un arrêt des procédures en raison de la règle qui prohibe les déclarations de culpabilité multiples sur la base des mêmes faits.

Quelques conseils pratiques

Lorsqu'un accident mortel survient au sein de votre établissement ou chantier de construction, il est important de :

  • Comprendre les circonstances de l'événement avant de publier des communiqués de presse qui pourraient être incriminants tant pour l'entreprise que pour un individu;
  • Effectuer une enquête interne en parallèle de la CNESST et des corps policiers;
  • Appeler une ressource compétente qui pourra :
    • vous assister dans le cadre de l'enquête avec la CNESST et les corps policiers;
    • guider l'entreprise ou des employés qui pourraient être identifiés comme des suspects potentiels;
    • expliquer les droits et obligations de chacun des acteurs en fonction du contexte évolutif du dossier.

Êtes-vous prêt?

Ainsi, la question qui demeure est simple : advenant un accident grave ou mortel, votre entreprise est-elle prête à faire la preuve qu'elle a fait diligence raisonnable? Plus précisément, votre entreprise sera-t-elle en mesure de démontrer :

  • Qu'elle a rempli son devoir de prévoyance en identifiant les risques reliés au travail et de déterminer les mesures appropriées à mettre en place?
  • Qu'elle a rempli son devoir d'efficacité en exigeant la mise en place de moyens concrets pour assurer la sécurité des travailleurs, tant sur le plan des équipements, de la formation et de la supervision, et ce, afin de veiller au respect des consignes de sécurité?
  • Qu'elle a rempli son devoir d'autorité en refusant de tolérer des conduites dangereuses et en imposant des sanctions aux employés qui ne respectent pas les règles de prudence?

Ce jugement récent rappelle à quel point il est important de mettre en place des mesures concrètes pour contrôler la santé et la sécurité tant au sein des établissements que sur les chantiers de construction.

Footnotes

1 Art. 222 du Code criminel

2 R. c. Fournier, 2018 QCCQ 1071

3 Art. 220 du Code criminel

4 Ar. 221 du Code criminel

5 Art. 236(b) du Code criminel — L'audition sur sentence sera tenue ultérieurement.

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