ON Coatings Supervisor Fined After Fatality
The Ontario Court of Justice has reportedly convicted a former coatings contractor supervisor after a worker died in 2020 when the relining of a water chamber led to an explosion.
A news release from the Ontario government states that Tony Ventrone pled guilty and was fined $70,000 after being convicted earlier this month for not ensuring a safe workplace, resulting in the incident.
According to an article from Newmarket Today, the incident occurred when Ventrone was working as a construction supervisor of the Vaughan-based Infrastructure Coatings (Ontario) Corporation.
Supervisor fined $70K for death of worker in York Region project https://t.co/JqIiaAzczD— NewmarketToday (@newmarkettoday) August 23, 2023
Infrastructure Coatings (Ontario) Corporation was reportedly under contract to the Regional Municipality of York to re-line an underground water chamber with a spray waterproofing as part of a water main remediation project.
The corporation reportedly applied the waterproof coating to the chamber in July 2020. A follow-up inspection then revealed that a corner of the chamber was spongy and required re-spraying so the company returned and cut out the spongy area.
On Aug. 5, 2020, workers reportedly returned once again to respray the coating, with access to the 17-foot-deep chamber through a manhole and ladder. According to reports, when repairs were completed, a worker used flammable methyl ethyl ketone to clean the chamber.
“The worker was going to re-enter the chamber with a propane torch to speed up the drying process before applying the spray waterproofing,” the news release said.
“The waterstop supervisor indicated to the worker not to use the torch before being distracted by their phone. At the same time, the worker lit the torch near the manhole entrance. MEK fumes being purged from the chamber ignited, causing an explosion that critically injured the worker.”
Reports add that there was no fire extinguisher at the scene, which goes against Ontario regulations and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The worker reportedly died from his injuries several days later.
The province stated that Ventrone was in his truck at the site during the time of the incident, but not present at the scene and that he “failed, as a supervisor, to ensure that fire extinguishing equipment was provided and readily accessible at a project where open-flame operations were carried out.”
The court reportedly imposed a 25% victim fines surcharge as required under the Provincial Offences Act, which will go towards a government fund to help victims of crime.
Recent US Workplace Incidents
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced it would be upholding citations against a former New York contractor after a fatal trench collapse in Brooklyn in 2018.
Officials said at the time that at the time of the accident six construction workers were digging about 30 feet below street level at the site of a one-story building, preparing to lay the foundation for a new manufacturing and health care facility.
At around 1:45 p.m., the workers were using an excavator when a wall partially collapsed. One man, Luis Almonte, 47, was trapped. Search dogs were brought to the scene, as well as several listening devices and drones, to help find the man to no avail. The weather also hindered the operation, as crews eventually had to break because the area became too unstable.
By around 5 p.m. on Sept. 12, 2018, the mission changed from rescue to recovery, and Almonte’s body was found the following day. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The property was owned by 348 37th St. LLC, according to The Real Deal, and two contractors were listed on the project: Ground to Sky City Builders Corp. and WSC Group LLC.
Neither company had a history of violations with OSHA, and the Department of Buildings said that active permits were in order for the site, which showed that the existing single-story building was to become a four-story facility.
In March 2019, OSHA reportedly found that WSC Group LLC willfully failed to provide an adequate protective system for employees working in a trench and exposed them to other serious excavation hazards.
The company then contested OSHA's citations before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The commission case was paused while the Kings County District Attorney’s office pursued a criminal case that led to the conviction of WSC company owner Jiaxi “Jimmy” Liu for criminally negligent homicide and other charges in March of this year.
According to the press release, an administrative law judge had issued an order concluding the commission case, following the execution of a civil settlement between the department and WSC Group that upheld the citations. Additionally, it required the company to pay $50,000 in penalties for the violations.
In the settlement, the employer stated it had ceased operations and would not perform any future construction work. Liu will also reportedly not own, operate, supervise or manage any company performing construction work.
The judge's order terminating the case was sent to the commission on July 21, 2023, and became a final order on Aug. 21, 2023.