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Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Pay $250,000

An Ontario court has sentenced two corporate directors to jail time and fined the company $250,000 when a worker was killed after falling from an elevated platform tacked on to the forks of a forklift. The sentence comes despite the director's decision to plead guilty to the charges and the company having no prior convictions.

The worker was moving merchandise at a warehouse in Brampton, Ont., using the modified forklift. The added platform had no guardrail. The worker was found on the floor unconscious and was pronounced dead soon after. The cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head.

The Ministry of Labour stated that its investigation found there had been no health and safety training provided to warehouse workers and they were not provided with any further fall protection.

The directors were charged with failing to take reasonable care that the corporation complied with occupational health and safety legislation. The company was charged with failing to provide information, instruction, and supervision to a worker regarding fall protection and working from a height. The company was also charged for failing to ensure the safety measures required by law were carried out. Guilty pleas were entered on all counts.

The directors received a 25-day jail sentence, to be served on weekends, and were ordered to take a health and safety course within 60 days. The company was fined $250,000.

Although this is an Ontario decision, a similar result is likely elsewhere. There is a growing trend by prosecutors across the country to seek higher fines and harsher penalties for employers who fail to take their occupational health and safety obligations seriously. Directors who are reckless can expect to pay a high price.

Steven Dollansky

Steven is an associate in the McLennan Ross Edmonton office focusing on commercial litigation and labour and employment. He can be reached at (780) 482-9135 or sdollansky@mross.com.
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