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Roofer to be Jailed in Death of Worker

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

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A Canadian judge has sentenced the owner of a roofing company to 15 days in jail and imposed a $50,000 ($46,938 USD) fine for failing to protect an employee who died in a fall, then lying about the accident.

Authorities said Paul Markewycz, owner of Roofing Medics Ltd., in Brampton, had been supervising three workers who were installing a roofing membrane on a Toronto residence in August 2011 when one worker fell from a ladder about 20 feet up and struck a fence.

Roofer repairs
FEMA / Patsy Lynch

A roofer repairs a roof damaged by tornadoes. The Ontario Federation of Labour wants more jail time for employers who do not enforce fall protection.

Markewycz drove the worker to the hospital, where he died an hour later.

The victim was wearing fall protection equipment but was not tied into anything when he fell, authorities found.

Markewycz did not report the death to the Ministry of Labour as required. He also told police after the incident that the victim had fallen at Markewycz's home while helping to install roof vents.

Only after an extensive police investigation that included two visits to Markewycz's home did Markewycz admit that the worker had fallen on the job in Toronto.

"Significant Ministry of Labour and police resources were expended as a result of the false information provided by Mr. Markewycz," the court said in announcing the sentence by Ontario Provincial Court Justice C. Ann Nelson.

Guilty Pleas

Eventually, Roofing Medics pleaded guilty to failing as an employer to ensure safety measures were carried out as required and to failing to notify an inspector immediately of the occurrence.

Markewycz pleaded guilty to failing as a supervisor to ensure that a worker used the protective devices required by law and to lying to an inspector.

The fine also carries a 25 percent victim surcharge that is credited to a fund to assist crime victims.

'Kill a Worker, Go to Jail'

Labor leaders praised the sentence, which was issued in the wake of the Ontario Federation of Labour's "Kill a Worker, Go to Jail" campaign.

Metron websites
Company websites

The "Kill a Worker, Go to Jail" campaign began after the employer in a scaffold collapse that killed four workers and permanently disabled a fifth escaped criminal charges and started a new business.

"I hope this jail sentence sends a chill down the spine of every boss who puts profit ahead of workplace safety,” said Sid Ryan, who leads the 54-union, million-member organization.

“Every year, 80 Ontario workers are killed in workplace tragedies and nearly 250,000 more are maimed or injured. The only way to stop this carnage in the workplace is to march negligent employers from their boardroom to a jail cell.”

Ryan said Markewycz's jail sentence should have been longer, however: "A worker's life should be worth far more."

Notorious Collapse

The OFL push for jail time began after the Christmas Eve 2009 deaths of four unprotected migrant workers who plunged 13 stories from an overloaded scaffold that broke. A fifth worker was permanently injured.

That employer, Metron Construction Corp., was the first company in Ontario history to plead guilty to criminal charges in a worksite accident. Authorities found that several of the workers (including the supervisor, who died in the collapse) had marijuana in their systems.

The company was fined $750,000, but criminal charges were dropped against Metro owner Joel Swartz, who is back in business under a new name.

Said Ryan: “We won’t stop campaigning for justice until bad bosses learn that they can’t buy their way out of criminal responsibility."


Tagged categories: Accidents; Fall protection; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Ladders; Laws and litigation; Roofing contractors; Scaffolding

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