STRATFORD, ONT. — A sewer and watermain contractor based in Brussels, Ont. was convicted and fined $150,000 recently for its role in the death of a worker crushed by a 1,600-pound bollard during an excavation in May of 2018.
A crew from Kurtis Smith Excavating Inc. was working at a construction jobsite on Perth Line 86 west of Listowel, Ont. when the incident happened, a Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development report stated.
The defendant’s workers were engaged in a project that included grading a parking lot and reinstalling four metal bollards — post-like structures made of steel and cement — into a four-foot excavation to protect a wellhead.
One worker was operating an excavator with a bucket attachment and two other workers were involved at some point in preparing the base of the excavation.
At the time of the incident there was only one worker working in the excavation.
The bollards being installed in the excavation were about nine feet in height.
A portion of the bollard rests underground and a portion of it protrudes from the surface to act as a guardrail to prevent vehicles from hitting the wellhead.
The first three bollards were moved individually while located in the bucket and were lowered into the base of the excavation.
The fourth bollard could not be lowered into the excavation while in the bucket because there was insufficient room in the excavation to allow the bucket to maneuver.
A metal chain was attached to the bucket to hoist the last bollard into the excavation.
One end of the chain was attached to the bucket and the other end was wrapped around the base of the bollard’s handle.
The load was suspended from the excavator bucket in the exact position it needed to be placed into the excavation.
The bollard was lifted and placed into the excavation but the two workers in the excavation noticed it did not line up with the other installed bollards.
The bollard was hoisted from the excavation to the ground surface and detached from the bucket.
Some gravel was removed and the bollard was then reattached to the bucket with the chain and hoisted.
At this time, only one worker was located in the excavation.
The bollard slipped out of the choked chain wrapped around the handle, fell into the excavation and tipped over, striking and killing the worker.
The ministry investigated and concluded:
- The metal chain which was used to hoist the bollard was inappropriate for its intended use and not designed for hoisting. The chain was designed and manufactured to secure material in place, for example, to fasten a load to a flatbed truck during transportation.
- The hooks at the ends of the chain were not equipped with a safety-catch mechanism.
- A nylon sling designed for hoisting should have been used for this hoisting operation.
None of the workers involved had received hoisting or rigging training.
The applicable legislation is the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulation 213/91 — the Construction Projects Regulation.
The law states that an employer must ensure measures set out in the regulation are followed to protect the safety of workers on a construction project.
One such requirement at section 172(1)(a) of the regulation requires that slings or similar devices for rigging and hoisting an object be suitable for this use.
Judge Katherine Stacy Neill in provincial offences court in Stratford determined the defendant failed to ensure the measures outlined in the regulation were followed and thereby did violate section 25(1)(c) of the act.
Kurtis Smith Excavating pleaded guilty and was fined on Nov. 26, 2019.