CSST blames company over death of man crushed by steel plate

Quebec’s workplace health and safety board said a construction company compromised the safety of its employees by not properly managing the handling of steel plates on one of its construction sites and will be fined for its role in an accident that killed a passerby.

Saad Syed killed in August 2013 when 5x3m, 1-tonne steel plate fell on him near construction site

Saad Syed was killed on Aug. 5, 2013 after a one-tonne metal plate fell on him near a worksite in downtown Montreal

Quebec’s workplace health and safety board said a construction company that compromised the safety of its employees and contributed to a fatal accident will be fined.

The conclusions are part of the CSST’s report looking into the August 2013 death of Saad Syed, which was released to the public today.

Syed, a language teacher at GEOS Language Academy in downtown Montreal, was killed when he was walking by a construction site near the intersection of De La Montagne Street and René-Lévesque Boulevard and a steel metal plate fell on him.
A man was crushed to death after this excavator dropped a steel plate on him. (CSST)
​ The plate, at 5.03 metres long by 2.90 metres wide, weighed more than a tonne.

The CSST identified poor management of health and safety with respect to the lifting and handling of steel plates as one of the root causes of the accident.

It said a worker from Excavation L. Martel Inc. picked up the steel plate vertically with a hydraulic excavator by inserting a hook into the plate’s exhaust opening. A chain of events led to the plate toppling over and crushing Syed. 

“The plate was lifted with an excavator, it just fell off from the hook there was no safety latch on the hook,” said CSST inspector Jean-François Beaudry, adding that crew on site also lacked training.

“The safety on the site was not properly planned. There was a prevention program that was supposed to be applied on the site but it wasn't. The foreman and the workers were supposed to be trained to make sure that this accident cannot happen.”

The CSST said the fines generally issued to companies on their first offence range from $15,698 to $62,790; subsequent infractions can incur fines of up to $156,976.

Victim's family and friends find some comfort

Sameer Zuberi, a childhood friend of Syed's, says it comforts him to know his friend didn't do anything to cause the accident. 
Sameer Zuberi, Syed's childhood friend, says companies at fault should pay the family damages. (CBC)
​ "He was just doing as he should have been doing,. That’s really what characterized Saad — he was an honest, upright person. I think people really respected that in him," Zuberi said.

But Zuberi says the fines don't go far enough — he thinks the companies found to be at fault should compensate Syed's family.

"We can’t undo what’s been done. If there’s any positive note, it’s that the company was shown to be at fault  it’s likely that it was at fault — and I would suggest that the company owes his family damages."

In 2012 alone, 75 Quebecers lost their lives in workplace accidents.