PEI

Construction companies, foreman fined after workplace accident leaves employee severely disabled

Two construction companies and a foreman who failed to provide fall-protection training and equipment to their workers have been fined for a workplace accident that has left an Island man severely disabled.

Occupational Health and Safety finds failure to provide required safety equipment

Ryan Mahar continues to be a patient at Prince County Hospital. He is unable to communicate, requires tube feeding and anti-seizure medications. (Submitted by Mahar family)

Two construction companies and a foreman who failed to provide fall-protection safety equipment to their workers have been fined for a workplace accident that has left an Island man severely disabled.

Ryan Mahar, 33, of Emerald, P.E.I., fell from a scaffold Sept. 4, 2019 while working with a construction crew to build a potato warehouse in Elmsdale, P.E.I.

He suffered life-altering injuries, including severe brain damage. Mahar remains at Prince County Hospital in what medical advisors describe as a "totally disabled, vegetative state," according to court documents.

The foreman and the construction companies pleaded guilty to infractions under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

G.E. Macneill Contracting of Alberton and Seymour DesRoches Construction were each fined $40,000 by Judge Krista MacKay, as she handed down her sentencing decision Wednesday in provincial court in Summerside.

Ryan Mahar had been working for Seymour DesRoches Construction for just three months before his accident. (Submitted by Mahar family)

Sean Campbell, a foreman with Seymour DesRoches, was fined $2,000.

"No penalty can compensate for the tragedy that has happened here," said MacKay. "He had no railing or anything to prevent a fall."

Struck from behind

An agreed statement of facts was provided to the judge prior to the sentencing.

G.E. Macneill Contracting was hired as general contractor to build the potato warehouse and engaged Seymour DesRoches Construction of Kensington as a subcontractor.

The day of the accident, Mahar was a part of a nine-person crew with Seymour DesRoches, as they installed roof trusses on the partially built warehouse.

Ryan Mahar fell 5.5 metres from a work platform in September 2019. (Brian Higgins/CBC News)

Mahar was working on an "unguarded rolling work platform," according to the statement of facts, about 5.5 metres (18 feet) off the ground.

As one of the rafters was being raised into place by a crane, the rope used to help guide it into position broke, and a gust of wind caught the rafter, according to the agreed facts. 

Mahar was struck from behind by the rafter and fell to the concrete surface below.

Work site deficiencies

Mahar was hired in June 2019 and had limited experience in the construction industry.

The day of the accident, Ryan Mahar was a part of a nine-person crew with Seymour DesRoches. (Submitted by Mahar family)

An investigation by Occupational Health and Safety inspectors found several deficiencies at the work site.

Seymour DesRoches Construction did not provide formal safety orientation for new hires or for specific job sites and G.E. Macneill did not require Seymour DesRoches to have a written fall-protection plan or safe work procedures for the site.

According to witnesses, no worker on site was connected to a fall-protection system, and fall-protection equipment was generally not worn.

The rope line attached to the rafter "was of poor quality and not well maintained," according to the investigation report.

Company ordered to stop work a month earlier

Just weeks before Mahar's accident, on Aug. 6, Seymour DesRoches Construction had been issued a stop work order by Occupational Health and Safety at another work site because workers did not have fall-prevention training.

As a result of that, 14 workers, including Mahar, received training, according to court documents.

However, he "was not provided with an adequate means of fall protection" on the day he fell and there was no engineer's certificate for the scaffold he was working on.

"I have struggled with this … less than a month prior there was a stop work order," said MacKay.

"You can drive around the city and see all kinds of workers at height, without safety precautions in place."

Some of the money from the imposed fines will be used for educational programs on fall-protection measures.

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