Kitchener-Waterloo

Rockwood construction company fined $125K and given probation after worker's death at Toronto airport

A Rockwood construction company has been fined $125,000 and placed on probation after a worker died at Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto in March 2018.

Man died while installing corrugated steel sheeting at Billy Bishop Airport

A Rockwood construction company has been fined and placed on probation after a judge ruled it violated the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act after a worker died while installing corrugated steel sheeting at Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto. (David Donnelly/CBC)

A Rockwood construction company has been fined $125,000 after a worker died at Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto in March 2018.

A court bulletin from the province notes Vixman Construction Limited was also sentenced to 18 months probation for contravening the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

A woman who answered the phone at Vixman Construction on Wednesday and did not identify herself said the company had no comment.

On March 27, 2018, workers for the construction company was installing corrugated steel sheeting to create a roof over walkways at the airport between the gates and the tarmac.

Two workers were using self-retracting lifelines for fall protection and had full body harnesses.

"All of the fall protection equipment was appropriate for the tasks involved and functioning properly," the court bulletin said.

As they moved along, the workers also moved the anchors for their self-retracting lifelines. One of the workers moved his to an upright column.

As he worked over an open area, the self-retracting lifeline block went over the edge of the installed sheeting, the bulletin said.

"As it was attached to a vertical column, and not to a horizontal member, the block dropped until its mechanism engaged. This exerted a pulling force on the worker's body and he fell from the work surface," the bulletin said. 

The man hit the ground and suffered fatal injuries.

"The court found that the [self-retracting lifeline] had not been attached to a fixed support, and that the length of the extended lifeline, over an open area, was not a safe configuration of the fall protection equipment," the bulletin said.

Probation is rare

Fines are common in health and safety cases like this one, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour said, but probation is less so.

In his ruling, Justice of the Peace Gregory John Fantino said he felt "compelled to render a decision which deviates from the convention deterrence and fine paradigm."

"A human life should not be measured solely in terms of financial currency," Fantino wrote in the decision, even going so far as to bold and underline it.

There are a number of conditions the company must now meet:

  • It cannot commit "the same or any related or similar offence, or any offence under a statute of Canada or Ontario or any other province of Canada that is punishable by imprisonment."
  • A company representative must appear in court "when required."
  • The company must notify the court if it changes its address.
  • Within 14 days of the Jan. 31 ruling, the president of the company was ordered to attend an intake appointment with a probation officer at a Toronto courthouse.
  • The company president or a designate will report to the probation officer.
  • Within six months, the company must produce a video to be used in the training and education of workers in stopping falls and best practices "which may be featured" on the Ministry of Labour website.
  • Within 30 days, the company has to contact the editor of Infrastructure Health and Safety Association, Health and Safety Magazine "to publicly acknowledge the offence in an article" that will also discuss the company's enhanced fall protection safety talk, pre-safety inspection worksheets "and the remedial actions taken by Vixman to prevent future harm." That article will then be forwarded to the Ministry of Labour.

"The article will be dedicated to the memory of William Dean Maguire," Fantino ordered, naming the worker who died. The video must also detail what happened to Maguire and be dedicated to his memory.

Along with the fine and probation, Vixman Construction Ltd. has been ordered to pay a 25 per cent victim fine surcharge on its fine for a special fund to help victims of crime.