Ontario company taken to court in worker's death | National Union of Public and General Employees

Ontario company taken to court in worker's death

'Case may represent a huge step forward for worker safety in Ontario.' - OFL.

Sault Ste. Marie (10 March 2010) - A case involving a Sault Ste. Marie company charged with criminal negligence in the death of a public works employee last April is to be heard in court this week.

James Vecchio was killed when a mobile crane contracted by the city fell on him. It was operated by a numbered company known as Millennium Crane Rental.

Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), says the case may represent a "huge step forward" for worker safety in Ontario because employers will now have to "sit up and take notice" of potential criminal liability when workers are killed on the job.

The Ontario ministry of labour has also laid a series of charges against the company under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

A report from Canadian OH&S News describes what happened:

"On April 16, 2009, Vecchio, who had been employed by the city for over three years, was one of at least two workers installing a large sewer pipe at the landfill, when an 80 ton Krupp crane, rented by the city from Millennium Crane Rentals, tipped into the excavation on its side and pinned Mr. Vecchio in the excavation," reports Joe Fratesi, Sault Ste Marie's chief administrative officer. "As it turns out, the brakes were very bad on this piece of equipment," he adds.

"It took several hours to get Mr. Vecchio out," says Fratesi, explaining that due to the size of the machinery an equally large crane was needed to free the worker. Firefighters and paramedics were dispatched to the scene, and eventually Vecchio was taken to hospital, although "he probably succumbed to his injuries before they even got him out of the excavation after the crane was taken off him," speculates Fratesi.

Skeaff [spokesperson for Ontario's Ministry of Labour] says five OH&S charges have been laid against Millennium Crane Rentals. The charges relate to the failure to ensure: the crane was maintained so as not to hurt a worker; that it was not used while in defective condition; the maintenance schedule set out in the manufacturer's operating manual was followed prior to using the crane (2 counts); and, that the driver of the crane was properly licensed to operate it.

The crane operator was charged under Section 28(2)(b) of the OHSA for using a machine and/or working in a manner that may endanger another worker.

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