WINDSOR, Ontario – Canadian Electrocoating Ltd., a manufacturer in the automotive sector, pleaded guilty and has been fined $175,000 in the death of a worker.
The fatality occurred on September 19, 2014 at the company’s facility at 945 Prince Road in Windsor. On that date, three workers were working at a parts table, loading parts onto a rack in an area known as the line load. The production line then moves the loaded parts from the line load area through the painting process.
A forklift operator was in the process of lifting or moving material in the line load area. The forklift operator was accessing material bins in the second row of bins. The materials were nested closely together and were stacked four to five bins high.
As the forklift operator was driving into the second row of stacked bins, the forks were being raised. As they were raised the back rack on the forklift caught an edge of the second-level bin in the first row.
The forklift operator continued raising the forks of the forklift, then realized that bins in the first row were being lifted. The forklift operator immediately began lowering the forks and first-row bins. This non-purposeful lifting and lowering of the bins in the first row caused the stack of bins to wobble.
The first-row bins, stacked from the second to the fifth level, toppled across the forklift aisle in the direction of the line load workstation. The fourth and fifth level bins impacted the workstation of the three workers at the parts table.
One of the workers was killed after being struck and pinned beneath the fallen bins, which were full of automotive parts and weighed about 1,500 pounds each.
There was no evidence to suggest that the forklift operator had been operating the forklift in a manner that may endanger oneself or another worker; the operator had received training and had a valid certificate.
In this case the materials at the location were tightly nested, leaving very little room for error on the part of a forklift operator and elevating the risk of inadvertent lifting of materials.
The company’s safety rules included the concept of a “fall zone,” or area that would be affected if a load carried by a forklift were to tip, collapse or fall. The company’s rule for those working around a lift truck states that workers should “stay clear of the fall zone; this is a full circle around the lift truck equal to twice the height of the carried load.”
The height of each bin was approximately three feet high, so the stack of five bins was about 15 feet high. Therefore, in order to satisfy the company’s safety rules, the workstation where workers were located should have been at least 30 feet from the stacked bins. At the time of the event, the workstation was 16.5 feet from the stacked bins, placing it directly within the fall zone.
A Ministry of Labour inspector issued an immediate stop-work order to ensure no workers were exposed to the fall zone and when a second location was found with similar hazards, a second order was issued.
The company conducted an assessment to review material handling areas throughout the establishment and completed it three days after the incident.
Ontario Regulation 851 – the Industrial Establishments Regulation – requires that materials shall be transported, placed or stored so it can be removed or withdrawn without endangering the safety of any worker.
Canadian Electrocoating Ltd. committed the offence of failing as an employer to ensure this measure was in place. The company pleaded guilty and was fined $175,000 by Justice of the Peace Susan Hoffman in Windsor provincial court on May 25, 2016.
In addition to the fines, the court imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.