Ontario company found guilty for four workers deaths

Date Posted
Mike Rich

Ontario Court Justice Robert Bigelow handed down $200,000 in fines to Metron Construction for the gross negligence leading to the death of four employees.

Bigelow stated the deaths were the result of “horribly tragic consequences” that resulted from “serious breaches” of health and safety legislation by Metron Construction.

The incident the judge referenced occurred on Christmas Eve 2009 the support rope of a suspended scaffolding snapped, sending four men crashing down 13 floors to their deaths.

The men ranged from 25 to 40 years.

A fifth worker survived but sustained serious injuries. A sixth worker, the only one properly wearing a full-body safety harness, was pulled to safety.

Bigelow ordered the company to pay a $30,000 victim surcharge fine, which goes into a special fund to assist those affected by crime in the province. The judge also ordered the owner of the company, Joel Swartz, to pay $90,000 plus a $22,500 victim surcharge fine for four convictions under the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

“Health and safety legislation exists to protect workers from serious injury or death in the workplace and the overriding principle to be considered by the court is that of deterrence, and any fine imposed must be substantial enough to warn others that the offence will not be tolerated,” Bigelow said.

Sid Ryan, head of the Ontario Federation of Labour, called the sentence a “disgrace” because the Crown had originally asked for a $1million fine.

The OFL and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Canada, the country’s largest private sector union, had both called for jail time, not just financial penalties in this case.

“I believe employers in this province, in some cases, have been getting away with murder in the sense of killing workers every single day,” said Ryan. “The only way we can stop the carnage in the workplace is actual jail time.”

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