Friday, January 01, 2010

Since the Christmas Eve incident where four workers fell to their deaths in Toronto more evidence is coming to light of the lax safety precautions that led to this tragedy. Criminal charges may be laid, as the following item from the CBC says.
Police weigh criminal charges in highrise deaths:
Police will determine whether criminal charges should be laid in a Toronto construction accident that killed four workers on Christmas Eve, an Ontario Labour Ministry spokesman says.

The ministry, for its part, is investigating whether the province's Occupational Health and Safety Act was violated, and can institute its own proceedings leading to fines of $500,000 against a company or jail time for its staff.

Spokesman Matt Blajer said Wednesday that the accident, in which four workers repairing balconies on a highrise plummeted 13 storeys to their deaths and a fifth was seriously injured, was a complex one. For that reason the Labour Ministry is assisting Toronto police in their criminal probe, he said.

On Tuesday, Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan called on the province's attorney general to look into whether negligence was a factor in the men's deaths.

The workers fell when the platform they were perched on snapped. The ministry and police have not released the men's names, saying only that they had "European backgrounds." Other Toronto media have said three of the workers were from Ukraine, Israel and Uzbekistan.

Investigators have also not said whether the men were wearing safety harnesses, and if so, whether they were clipped in. The building is located on Kipling Avenue near Steeles Avenue, in Toronto's northwest.
It seems that this particular company has been an item of concern in terms of workplace safety in the past few months, as the following article from the Toronto Star shows.
Highrise scaffolding concerns halted work for months
Provincial inspections flagged safety issues prior to workers’ deaths:
Peter Edwards staff reporter
Concerned about the safety of scaffolds at an Etobicoke highrise, the province ordered Metron Construction of Toronto to halt work on the project for two months before the Christmas Eve accident that killed four workers and left another fighting for his life.

Government documents show that Metron was ordered to stop work on the apartment building at 2757 Kipling Ave. from Oct. 20 until safety conditions were improved.

An order allowing work to resume was issued Dec. 17, one week before the five workers fell 13 storeys from a "swing stage" or scaffold, which apparently snapped in two while they were working.

Government records show that five work orders were issued at the jobsite after a ministry inspection.

The Oct. 20 work orders included one calling for inspection reports and drawings of roof anchors, warning that "no productive work can be done on swing stages until all orders are complied with and re-inspected."

Other orders issued in October included one to "provide wire mesh securely fastened in place from the toe-board to the top rail of the guardrails of the swing stages," and another to "provide guardrails near the existing guardrail near the boiler room to get access to the swing stages installation at roof."

Until that work was done, Metron was ordered to stop work at the site.

Metron president Joel Swartz said Wednesday the company has never been charged with any violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in its 23 years of operation, although Swartz said in an email that "Metron acknowledges that the Ministry of Labour attended the site a number of times, as is routine practice, during the course of the project."

Metron further acknowledges that issues were immediately rectified after a labour ministry order.

"On one occasion Metron proactively invited the Ministry of Labour to attend the site so that it could satisfy itself, the residents of the building and the property manager of the building that Metron was operating in compliance with all of its legal obligations," Swartz said. ( Sounds like there was more than one source of complaint-Molly )

"The Ministry of Labour did attend and was satisfied that Metron continued to be in compliance with all of its obligations."

Swartz said he intends to help the workers' families by "providing financial, administrative and emotional support, depending on their particular needs at this time. I will be making a similar offer to the individual who remains in hospital."

Provincial records show the ministry gave Metron three more orders on Dec. 17 to ensure the swing stage was finally safe for workers.

One order was to ensure that every part of the project be outfitted "to support or resist all loads and forces to which it is likely to be subjected without exceeding the allowable unit stress for each material used." Another was to "provide guardrails to work platform being used for access to swing stage near the parking garages."

Until those orders were completed, the ministry stated, "no productive work can be carried out from the swing stage."

Later on Dec. 17, a ministry inspector returned to the site for a reinspection of compliance.

"Compliance achieved, stop work order lifted," a report concluded.

On Dec. 29, five days after the accident, the ministry issued a series of future orders, including a demand for copies of all contracts related to the work site and an outline of Metron's health and safety policy, records for "fall protection training of workers" and a list of all workers on site at the time of the deaths.

Meanwhile, Dilshod Mamurov, 21, the lone survivor of the accident, remained heavily medicated in Sunnybrook Hospital and unaware on Wednesday of the deaths of his co-workers.
Mamurov suffered broken legs and a shattered spine in the fall.

He has no family in Canada and still doesn't know that a friend from Uzbekistan was killed, said Bakhtier Shakhnazarov, a member of the local Uzbek community.

Michael Yorke, president of Carpenters' Union Local 27, said he's convinced the men wouldn't have died had proper workplace protocols been observed at the Kipling site, just south of Steeles Ave. W.

"We believe that this was a preventable accident," Yorke said. "None of the workers were tied down with a lifeline." ( NB- Molly )

Labour Minister Peter Fonseca wasn't available for comment on Wednesday, after Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, called for a criminal probe into the construction accident.

Ryan called on the province to stop "carnage in the workplace," noting that the Criminal Code allows for charges to be laid when there is evidence of negligence causing death or harm to workers.

Police still haven't released the names of the men involved.

However, the media have learned the dead men include Vladimir Korostin, 40, a refugee claimant from Israel and father of two, and Aleksey Blumberg, 32, a newly married refugee claimant from Ukraine.
There's a lot that might be said about the news above. The first thing that comes to mind is the fact that this company seems to be exclusively employing immigrants. It might be suggested that this is in order to pay lower wages, avoid unionization and have a workforce that is unaware of their rights or at least less likely to demand them. However that may be the fact is that thee deaths are not isolated incidents. they merely hit the headlines because of the mass nature and the time of year. As can be seen from this pdf report there are actually about five workplace deaths per day in Canada (data from 1993-2005). If this was an infectious disease or any other type of murder (mark you that murder by employer negligence is just as much murder as any other homicide) it would be considered a matter of national emergency.
Both Canada and the USA have a National Day of Mourning on April 28 for workers killed and injured on the job. Molly has reported extensively on this day and its grim subject before. As to Canada you can find an article and extensive references here. The same is true of the USA. See here. In the USA there is also an organization dedicated to the memory of workers killed on the job, the United Support & Memorial for Workplace Fatalities.


OZs said...

Visiting from Indonesia,
Happy New Year 2010, have a nice day.

mollymew said...

Happy New Year to you too.

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