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Contractor Pleads in Worker's Death

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

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The contractor on a Canadian subway project has been fined $400,000 after pleading guilty to violating safety measures in the death of one worker and permanent injury of another.

OHL-FCC GP Canada Inc., the contractor for a Toronto Transit Commission subway extension project in North York, pleaded guilty to failing to comply with safety measures required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Ontario's Ministry of Labor announced Friday (Nov. 28).

The contractor is a limited partnership between OHL Construction Canada and Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas.

Kyle Knox fatality
Local 793 International Union of Operating Engineers

"This disastrous accident was much more deserving of the maximum fine of $500,000 that can be imposed on a corporation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for such a fatality," a union official said. The company was fined $420,000 after pleading guilty.

A later, separate violation by the same company resulted in an additional $20,000 fine.

Collapsed Rig

The case began Oct. 11, 2011, when a drilling rig collapsed on top of a backhoe being operated by Kyle Knox, 24. Knox, who worked for subcontractor Anchor Shoring & Caissons Ltd., was killed in the accident.

Another worker, operating an excavator for subcontractor Advanced Construction Techniques (ACT) Ltd., was seriously injured when his equipment was also crushed. The worker was identified as Dan DeLuca by his union, Local 793 of the International Union of Operating Engineers.

DeLuca was permanently disabled in the accident, according to the union.

The job site was near York University, where twin tunnels were under construction to add an 8.6-kilometer (5.3-mile) subway line for the Toronto Transit Commission.

Officials said another employee of ACT had been operating a drill rig equipped with an auger when he raised the auger and swung the mast. The worker saw the boom go to the right and felt the machine move. The drill rig then toppled,  and the mast and casing crushed the excavator and backhoe.

Five other workers were reported injured, and emergency crews worked for hours on unstable ground to free trapped workers. Knox's body could not be recovered until the next day.

Unsteady Ground

An investigation by the Ministry of Labor found that site preparation had been inadequate and that the soil base had been unable to withstand the weight and pressure of the drill rig.

Anchor Shoring
The Anchor Group of Companies

On Oct. 11, 2011, backhoe operator Kyle Knox, 24, was killed when a drilling rig collapsed on his equipment at a Toronto Transit Commission subway project (pictured).

Those factors, combined with work to dig dispersal holes filled with wet material, significantly reduced the ground-bearing capacity of the surface where the rig tracks were located.

Additionally, the drill rig was operating on a slope greater than allowed, investigators said.

In addition to the fine, the court imposed a 25 percent victim fine surcharge, which is required under the Provincial Offenses Act. The surcharge goes to a fund to assist victims of crime.

Extra Inspection

Five months after the accident, officials conducted a routine inspection at the tunnel project to determine whether rescue equipment was current, acceptable for the task, and in good working order.

Inspectors found that equipment, specifically the self-contained breathing apparatus, was not being inspected monthly, as required by law.

OHL-FCC GP Canada pleaded guilty to failing to ensure a monthly inspection and was fined $20,000.

Health & Safety Laws

Under Canada's Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), a company convicted of an offense faces a maximum $500,000 fine.

To be found not guilty, defendants must show that they exercised due diligence on the site—that all precautions, reasonable under the circumstances, had been taken to protect workers' health and safety.

Companies also face regulatory prosecution under the Provincial Offenses Act when individuals on the jobsite do not comply with OHSA. Prosecution can be initiated against any company that commits an offense.

Advanced Construction Techniques
Advanced Construction Techniques

Dan DeLuca, who was operating an excavator for subcontractor Advanced Construction Techniques, was severely injured in the accident (not pictured) and is permanently disabled, his union says.

Since 2004, an employer may also be charged under the country's Criminal Code when police are called in to investigate a serious workplace incident.

Bill C-45 was created after a 1992 methane-gas explosion that killed 26 miners in Nova Scotia. Before the disaster, employees, union officials and government inspectors all raised concerns about the conditions; however, the company made few changes.

Union Responds

Mike Gallagher, business manager of Local 793, said the $400,000 fine in the current case was not enough to prevent a similar incident.

Knox was an apprentice with the chapter, and DeLuca was also a union member.

"This disastrous accident was much more deserving of the maximum fine of $500,000," Gallagher said in a statement.

He called on the government to adopt training standards developed by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and an industry committee. He also urged that the government mandate training for drill rig operators.

"We can prevent future disasters like this if we quickly legislate that only licensed, fully trained operators be permitted to operate this equipment, changes which the industry committee of experts has proposed," Gallagher said.

"We must move much more quickly when lives are endangered."

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Contractors; Enforcement; Fatalities; Health & Safety; Laws and litigation; North America; Public Transit; Subcontractors

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