OTTAWA — Two Ottawa construction firms and their site supervisors have been fined for their roles in a 2016 incident in which a worker was killed after being struck by a large piece of ice while working in an excavation.
Claridge Homes (Preston) Inc., Bellai Brothers Construction Ltd., Claridge’s site supervisor Michael Lwow and Leo Simard, site supervisor for Bellai Brothers, were convicted in Ottawa provincial court and fined a total of $677,500 on May 30, 2019.
A Ministry of Labour statement recounts that the defendants were involved in the construction of a 46-storey condominium with a nine-storey underground parking garage.
The project required digging a 30-metre-deep excavation. Claridge Homes was the constructor and Bellai Brothers performed the structural concrete work for the building, including the footings and concrete walls. Another company was contracted to dig the excavation.
At the time of the incident, when temperatures were cold, ice could form on the excavation walls, the ministry statement explained.
Without warning, pieces of ice could detach from the walls and fall to the bottom of the excavation.
Another company was hired to power-wash the ice away using hot water from pump trucks. Workers standing on a platform were lifted by a crane to access the wall where they would power-wash the ice.
Bellai Brothers was also periodically involved in efforts to remove the ice using its crane to knock ice from the walls. Another subtrade would also use an excavator to scrape the ice from the lower portions of the walls. Ice would quickly re-form on the south wall when the weather was cold.
Metal netting and tarps were hung approximately 13 feet down near the top of the south excavation wall face.
On Feb. 4, 2016, a safety representative for Bellai Brothers was struck in the back by falling ice from the south wall.
The worker was not seriously injured and the incident was reported to the Ministry of Labour the next day.
A ministry inspector took note of equipment used to remove ice with pressurized hot water and issued no work orders related to ice removal, concluding that sufficient precautions were being taken.
A fence was erected along the south wall. Workers were frequently warned to watch out for the ice, and to stay clear of the south wall. No safe distance was specified beyond the existence of the snow fence placed 15 feet from the wall.
On March 21 and 22, the excavated rock pile in front of the south wall was removed. The snow fence was not re-erected.
On March 23, a worker went into the excavation to begin preparing for a new footing.
Shortly after, the worker was struck by a large piece of ice estimated to be 13 feet in length and 56 kilograms in weight.
The worker was over 20 feet from the south wall when struck. The ice fell from a location near the top of the south wall, below the metal netting and tarps.
Emergency workers arrived and an excavator operator used the equipment to shield the paramedics from the potential hazard of falling ice. The worker died from the injuries.
On March 21 and 22, and at the time of the event, there were several large ice formations that had developed on the south wall.
After the site was cleared, another large piece of ice fell at the same location.
The Ottawa court found the defendants failed to ensure that a wall of an excavation was stripped of loose ice that may slide, roll or fall upon a worker, contrary to section 232(1) of Ontario Regulation 213/91, the Construction Projects Regulation.
Following guilty pleas, Claridge Homes was fined $325,000, Bellai Brothers $325,000, Simard $15,000 and Lwow $12,500.