A Saskatoon judge fined a Hague construction firm $126,000 before slamming its management for lax safety measures in a written decision this month.
In February 2021, a 20-year-old apprentice at King Stud Contracting Ltd. fell five meters from a forklift that had been improperly used as a platform. He broke his spine, spent three months in intensive care and was a quadriplegic for life.
“The accident occurred as a direct result of King Stud’s choice to avoid purchasing a safer work platform,” Provincial Court Judge QD Agnew wrote in his 10-page judgment.
“The fact that the King Stud did not require workers to wear basic safety equipment less than four months after the catastrophic incident shows a general lack of interest in worker safety and unwillingness to comply with OHS [Occupational Health and Safety] Require. “
Agnew wrote that on the morning of Feb. 19, 2021, the worker was using a modified forklift as a platform — a practice the company had been specifically warned against using six months earlier.
“Essentially, at this point [the workers] We stood on a platform five meters above the ground, with a floor and a backrest and nothing else,” he wrote. “King Stud was informed on 3 September 2020 that this platform could not be used for workers, only for Material”
Over the past five years, OHS inspectors have investigated King Stud three times for 10 breaches, four of which related to fall prevention and safety, Agnew wrote. The violations included some related to the use of an unsafe lifting platform as a work platform and failure to properly use fall arrest equipment.
The company admitted putting a worker on a platform that did not have an OHS-compliant “personal fall arrest system”.
Commenting on the “level of risk, degree of danger, predictability,” Agnew wrote, “All of these are so high that they dazzle even the untrained eye.”
Agnew’s greatest concern, however, is the company’s behavior after the accident.
“Even more troubling, on April 26, 2022 – less than a year after the last breach and just over a year after [the worker’s] Injured – King Stud was again found violating hard hat and fall protection requirements,” he wrote.
In assessing the fine, Agnew said he needed to balance the size of the company (three to five employees) with the need to send a strong message. Lawyers for the company recommended paying a total of $45,000 in fines over two years. Prosecutors are asking for a $100,000 fine and $40,000 in surcharges.
Agnew ultimately fined the company $126,000.
“Such a fine would be a very significant penalty for the principals of the company, but should not be so severe as to bring about the collapse of King Stud,” he wrote.
“Will they be extremely uncomfortable for a few years? No doubt; but not as uncomfortable as others [the worker’s] Life will be his by their actions or omissions. “