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December 24, 2012

Swing-stage tragedy impacts three years later

As the construction industry remembers the victims of the Christmas Eve 2009 swing-stage tragedy, 2012 has been a year of progress for Ontario’s occupational health and safety sector.

Metron Construction supervisor Fayzullo Fazilov, along with Vladimir Korostin, Aleksey Blumberg and Alexander Bondorev, died after they fell 13 storeys when their swing-stage broke apart on Dec. 24, 2009 while working on a highrise apartment building at 2757 Kipling Ave. in Toronto.

A fifth worker, welder Dilshod Marupov, survived the fall, but suffered severe leg and spinal injuries.

In July of this year, Toronto constructor Metron was convicted of criminal negligence causing death, the first conviction of its kind in Ontario under the Criminal Code, and was fined $200,000. Metron director Joel Swartz was fined $90,000, but criminal charges against him were dropped.

Swartz pleaded guilty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to failing as a director to take all reasonable care to ensure that: workers did not use a defective or hazardous swing-stage; the swing-stage was not loaded in excess of the weight it was meant to bear; workers were adequately trained in the use of fall protection by a competent person; and Metron Construction Corporation prepared and maintained written training and instruction records for each worker.

Swartz and Metron were convicted under: Ontario Regulation 213/91, Section 26.2(1); Ontario Regulation 213/91, Section 26.2(3); Ontario Regulation 213/91, Section 93(2)(a); and Ontario Regulation 213/91, Section 134(3).

The company and Swartz were also ordered to pay a victim surcharge totalling $52,500 — bringing the total fines to $342,500.

The company had faced a fine of up to $1 million.

At the time, Pat Dillon, Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario business manager, said the result was an opportunity lost in what could have created a “revolutionary shift” in thinking about health and safety.

“Not only charged with criminal negligence, pleaded guilty. It isn’t just a matter that there was some accusation, there was an admittance of criminal negligence,” said Dillon in a July 2012 interview with the Daily Commercial News.

“It certainly doesn’t look like justice was served. I’m lost for words as to how to try to explain what might have taken place.”

In response to the Christmas Eve 2009 incident, Tony Dean and his expert advisory panel reviewed Ontario’s occupation health and safety enforcement and prevention system.

The panel’s report made 46 recommendations, among them the establishment of a Chief Prevention Officer (CPO). George Gritziotis was appointed as the province’s first CPO in the fall of 2011.

VINCE VERSACE

On Dec. 24, 2009 this swing-stage broke apart at a Toronto apartment restoration project causing four workers to plunge 13 storeys to their deaths.

A Prevention Council was established this August which is aimed at protecting workers and improving workplace health and safety across the province.

Providing support to Gritziotis, the Prevention Council will advise labour minster Linda Jeffrey on: prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses; development of a provincial occupational health and safety strategy; and proposed changes to funding and delivery of services for the prevention of workplace injuries and occupational diseases.

Dillon has been appointed to the 11-member council as a labour representative and said one of his priorities is creating a shift in the culture of health and safety.

Another Expert Advisory Panel recommendation was the creation of a health and safety poster explaining the key rights and responsibilities of the workplace parties, including how to obtain additional health and safety information and how to contact a Ministry of Labour inspector.

As of Oct. 1, the Health & Safety at Work: Prevention Starts Here poster must be displayed by all employers in the province. It is available in 17 languages and is available online.

The poster is part of the Prevention Starts Here campaign which features an awareness workbook and supervisor training.

The campaign reminds employers that they must not take action against workers for following the Occupational Health and Safety Act or for raising workplace health and safety concerns and seeking compliance with the Act.

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