TORONTO, ON – Matheson Constructors Ltd. and two supervisors have pleaded guilty and have been fined a total of $133,000 after a fall at a Toronto Transit Commission garage in which one worker died and another suffered broken bones.
Matheson Constructors, a company based in Concord, was engaged by the TTC to perform work at the transit company’s Malvern Garage, which includes an automatic bus wash. The garage is located at Sheppard Avenue and Markham Road.
On the morning of August 19, 2013, two Matheson site superintendents, Phil Lindsay and Karl Jedan, were on the jobsite and supervising the task of insulating an overhead water pipe that passes through the garage. Plumbing portions of the project were subcontracted by Matheson to KEM Khider Electromechanical Inc. (KEM) which in turn sub-contracted insulating work to Komenda Contracting Corporation.
Two workers received an orientation from Lindsay at the site; it was the first day on the job for both workers. The two workers began work insulating the overhead pipes in a mechanical room in the garage, following the pipes into a large garage space.
An overhead door in the garage was in an open position. The door, upon opening, curved along tracks to rest over an entry bay, allowing the entry of buses into the maintenance area. The workers continued their insulation work until they reached the open overhead door, which blocked their progress. The workers were working from a self-propelled elevating work platform, commonly referred to as a scissor lift. They were protected from falling by the guardrail of the platform and the wearing of harnesses tethered to the platform.
The two workers approached superintendent Jedan shortly after 10 a.m. regarding the overhead door obstacle. They were unable to operate the door. A TTC employee had turned the door controls off, and superintendent Lindsay had by that time left the site. The instruction from Jedan was to not touch TTC equipment and to not go near the door, that only TTC personnel could operate mechanical equipment, and that he would make arrangements with the designated TTC inspector. A supervisor from KEM also spoke to Jedan half an hour later about the same issue. The KEM supervisor was told by Jedan to follow TTC policy and to find the TTC inspector to have the door lowered. The KEM supervisor was unable to locate the TTC inspector so he instructed the workers to continue working away from the door.
The workers continued working on the pipe near the door. At 12:58 p.m. the door was lowered halfway by a TTC employee (not the designated TTC inspector) at the request of the workers. The TTC employee did not lock out the controls to the door and did not consult the designated TTC inspector about the lowering of the door or locking it out.
Lock-out is a means of preventing power from being applied to a piece of equipment, thereby ensuring it cannot be set in motion. Affected workers apply a physical lock to the prevention mechanism to ensure no worker is endangered by movement of the equipment.
Matheson was required by its contract with the TTC to follow the TTC’s lock-out procedure. The TTC’s lock-out procedure required that the TTC’s representative authorize and carry out any lock-out of any TTC equipment, including the subject overhead door. The TTC employee who lowered the door at the workers’ request did not follow the TTC lock-out procedure. Neither Matheson Constructors nor the supervisors, Lindsay and Jedan, ensured that the TTC lock-out procedure was completed. Lindsay later informed a Ministry of Labour investigator that lock-out procedures were not discussed with the two workers.
In addition, there were indications that the door may have been malfunctioning on the day of the incident, as TTC employees had observed the door close on its own without any control input that day; a couple of weeks previously, TTC workers tried to close the door with the door controls and it would not move.
Upon lowering of the door, the scissor lift was moved into a position behind the door. A few minutes later, a mechanic pushed a cart through the open doorway, triggering an electric eye mechanism on the door and causing it to open. The door struck the scissor lift as it rolled along the overhead track. A TTC employee tried to stop the opening of the door at the time of the incident, but the door did not stop in time when the “stop” button was pushed. The scissor lift was knocked over, with both workers falling to the concrete floor about 20 feet below.
One of the workers suffered blunt head trauma injuries and died several days later as a result. The other worker suffered broken bones.
The court found that Matheson Constructors failed as a constructor to ensure that the safety of workers was protected, contrary to Section 23(1)(c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and fined the company $125,000.
The court also found superintendents Phil Lindsay and Karl Jedan guilty of failing as supervisors to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker, contrary to Section 27(2)(c) of the act – specifically of failing to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that an overhead garage door could not contact an elevated work platform upon which two workers were working. They were each fined $4,000.