Two company directors in Ontario are facing jail time after being found guilty by the labour ministry for the death of a warehouse worker.
On Jan. 13, the Ministry of Labour fined New Mex Canada — a furniture retailer headquartered in Brampton, Ont. — $250,000 and sentenced two of its directors to 25 days each in jail for violations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Ontario Regulation 851 (the latter of which governs industrial workplaces). The company plead guilty for the death of one of its warehouse employees almost two years ago.
Back in January 2013, the worker had been using a machine called an order picker, which is a combination of a forklift and operator-up platform. According to the MOL, there was not adequate fall protection equipment, nor was the employee wearing appropriate protective equipment.
“The added platform did not have a guardrail around it and the worker using it was not wearing fall protection or safety shoes,” a statement from the labour ministry reads. “The worker was found on the floor and was pronounced dead. The cause of death was later determined to be blunt force trauma to the head.”
The move was lauded by the Ontario Federation of Labour, which has long since called for jail time for health and safety transgressions.
“When employer negligence leads to a worker’s death, it is not an accident, it is a crime — and those responsible must be sentenced to the full extent of the law,” said Sid Ryan, president of the OFL.
But time in prison is not enough for such convictions, he said, adding that the OFL is pushing for criminal charges to be laid in addition to OHSA violations.
“Workplace fatalities have risen 36 per cent over the past five years and the only way to stop this carnage in the workplace is to put negligent bosses behind bars,” Ryan said. “A mere 25 days in jail and $250,000 fine does not send a strong enough message. A worker’s life should be worth far more.”
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