Not ensuring a safe workplace can be a costly mistake as one London, Ontario rebar fabricator recently found out.
During the summer of 2018, a Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development Inspector issued 18 orders to AGF Rebar Inc. ("AGF") requiring that certain machinery inside its building be equipped with guarding, and that existing guarding to be properly maintained. However, no orders were issued for the machinery located in the yard, which included a bender machine. The employer compiled with all the orders but did not install or provide guards for the bender machine located in the yard, as no orders had been issued about the bender machine.
In December 2018, an AGF employee was taken to hospital after being struck by falling bundles of rebar, weighing approximately 950 lbs, that fell from a gooseneck trailer they were loading. As a result, AGF plead guilty to failing to ensure materials were placed or stored so that they would not tip, collapse or fall thereby violating s. 45(b) of the Industrial Establishments Regulation (the "Regulation") and s. 25(1)(c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the "OHSA"). The Court imposed a fine of $30,000, plus a 25% victim fine surcharge, as required by the Provincial Offences Act, for a total of $37,500.
In January 2019, another AGF employee was assigned by a supervisor to process rebar into a specific shape using the bender in the yard. While manually feeding a piece of rebar through the bender, the employee attempted to adjust a leveling plate located in front of the rollers on the bender table. The leveling plate was not properly secured on the table and had shifted. The employee was pulled into the unguarded pinch point of the bender and suffered permanent injuries as a result. This time, AGF and the responsible supervisor plead guilty to failing to ensure the machine was equipped with a guard or a device to prevent access to an exposed moving part that could endanger a worker thereby violating s. 24 of the Regulation and ss. 25(1)(c) and 27(1)(a) of the OHSA, respectively. The Court imposed a fine of $65,000 on AGF and $2,000 on the supervisor, plus a 25% victim fine surcharge, for a total of $81,250 and $2,500, respectively.
In summary, as a result of the above violations of the OHSA and the Regulation AGF was required to pay $118,750 and the supervisor a further $2,500, for a total owing of $121,250.
This case serves as a costly reminder to employers and supervisors about their responsibility for ensuring a safe workplace and compliance with the OHSA and its regulations. Employers should be mindful that even if a Ministry Inspector does not specifically order a particular safety issue be remedied, an employer's failure to be fully compliant with the OHSA can result in substantial fines. Additionally, non-compliance can not only result in fines, it can also cost the employer legal fees, lost time and loss of reputation.
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