Clearing Snow Or Roof Top Working Without Training or Fall Restraint? Face criminal liability and big fines. Don't be this employer......

Working high without proper training or fall restraints? 

You can face both criminal liability and significant criminal fines, particularly the employer:  

Convicted: North West Lumber Co. Ltd. (NWL), operator of a Home Hardware Building Centre at 3299 Errington Avenue in Chelmsford (City of Greater Sudbury).

Location: The Home Hardware Building Centre in Chelmsford.

Description of Offence: A worker who was removing snow from the roof of a shed fell through a skylight. The worker was not using safety equipment as required by law.

Date of Offence: February 27, 2019.

Date of Conviction: December 1, 2020.

Penalty Imposed:

  • Following a guilty plea, North West Lumber Co. Ltd. was fined $55,000 in provincial offences court in Sudbury by Justice of the Peace Kathleen M. Bryant; Crown Counsel Wes Wilson.

  • The court also imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.

Background:

  • In the yard of the workplace was a shed in which lumber and other building supplies were stored.

  • In the winter of 2018-19 there was a large accumulation of snow on this building.

  • In December/January, structural deformation of a horizontal support beam on the west side of the shed was observed. A third-party contractor was employed to remove the snow load with the assistance of NWL employees.

  • A few weeks later, further bowing and cracking of another structural support beam on the east side was observed.

  • On February 27, 2019 a yard supervisor assembled two employees of NWL for the purpose of removing the accumulated snow load to prevent further structural damage to the building. The third-party contractor was not engaged to perform work on this occasion.

  • That morning the three employees held a brief meeting to discuss the snow clearing work.  One of the topics was the presence of skylights on the shed roof. These were sheets of corrugated plastic, each 2 feet wide and 7 feet long, mounted flush to the shingled roof surface.

  • One of the skylights was at a location near the snow to be cleared. No identification markers were placed to demarcate the skylight, which was more than 17 feet above the floor of the shed.

  • All three workers attended on the roof of the shed and began pushing snow off the sloped roof, which was more than 11 feet above the ground at the edge. None of the three were wearing any type of fall protection equipment and no guardrails were in place at the roof edge or around the skylights. There had been no discussion of fall protection at the morning meeting and no fall protection equipment was provided to the workers by NWL.

  • After lunch one of the workers returned to the roof of the shed and continued clearing snow.  While doing so the worker stepped on the skylight, broke through and fell to the ground below, suffering injuries.

  • The supervisor re-attended on the shed roof to finish clearing the snow and to measure the skylight opening and install a temporary cover. The supervisor was not wearing fall protection.

  • The injured worker did not have training in working at heights.

  • The company was convicted of failing as an employer to ensure the measures and procedures prescribed by section 85(a) of Regulation 851 (the Regulation for Industrial Establishments) were carried out in a workplace, contrary to section 25(1)(c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

  • The regulation requires workers to use a safety belt or harness and lifeline when exposed to the hazard of falling more than 3 metres (about 10 feet).


Thank you for reading this - Jason Ward, Calvin Chan of WARDS LAWYERS PC.

If you would like to read more, please go to wardlegal.ca/posts.

This WARDS LAWYERS PC blog is for general information only. It is not legal advice, or intended to be. Specific or more information may be necessary before advice could be provided for your circumstances.

More information? We're here to help - jason@wardlegal.ca | calvin@wardlegal.ca | www.wardlegal.ca