IOC pleads guilty over worker death

The Iron Ore Company of Canada pleaded guilty to three of five charges related to the death of a worker.

The Iron Ore Company of Canada pleaded guilty Wednesday to three of five charges related to the death of a worker.

Eldon Perry, 56, died when scaffolding collapsed and he fell about seven metres at IOC's mine in Labrador City on March 18, 2010. Another worker was badly injured in the accident.

Rio Tinto operates the Iron Ore Company of Canada mine in Labrador City.

IOC is facing five charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Defence lawyer David Eaton said in a Wabush courtroom on Wednesday that the company would plead guilty to breach of act and regulations; failure to ensure that workers are made aware of health or safety hazards; and failure to provide information, instruction, or supervision to ensure health, safety, and welfare.

Crown attorney Pat Carpenter said the Crown would agree to drop the two other charges if the judge accepts the guilty pleas.

Judge Wynne Anne Trahey said the company failed as an employer to ensure regulations were met for working on a higher surface.

"Most significant here are the lack of fall protection systems," she said.

Judge Trahey found IOC guilty on all three of those counts.

Crown outlines fines

The Crown is directing IOC to present a safety case to Occupational Health and Safety for its approval. The safety case ensures that IOC will work with Occupational Health and Safety to prevent this type of accident from happening again.

The possible fines in the case could go up to $750,000, but the Crown is recommending fines of $500,000.

"[This is] significantly higher than anything that's been awarded in this province," Carpenter acknowledged.

IOC has a record for Ocupational Health and Safety offences. The company's most recent conviction is a fall that took place in 2006.

Since 2006, IOC has been issued 882 directives to fix problems in lieu of laying charges.

Because of the company's significant revenues, Carpenter said its fines in this case need to be significant. The proposed fines would mount to 0.00167 per cent of Rio Tinto's annual revenue.

Defence sentencing submissions

Eaton said IOC took numerous steps after the fatal accident, including the installation of new platforms, the review of job safety processes, and an increase in the time dedicated to fall-arrest training.

He said the company spent over $1 million to implement these changes.

Eaton claimed the Crown's demand for a fine of $500,000 was "unduly harsh, and does offend the principals of proportionality."

The defence said the maximum amount that the judge should consider is $250,000.

While the lawyers concluded their sentencing submissions in court on Wednesday, a sentence won't be made until a later date, possibly Dec. 19.