Company fined $100K after worker injured by falling steel slab

Thursday April 21, 2016
Written by Ontario Ministry of Labour
Apr. 21, 2016 - Schmolz + Bickenbach Canada, an international manufacturer, producer and distributor of steel products, pleaded guilty and has been fined $100,000 after a worker suffered injuries that resulted in amputation.

On September 11, 2014, a worker employed as a truck driver by a different, but related, steel company was assigned to pick up a steel slab from the defendant’s plant and drive it back to the direct employer’s location in Brampton, Ont. The Ministry of Labour (MOL) noted that a shipper receiver was on the site readying the 23,800-pound steel slab for transport; that worker used a 44-ton Demag crane with an attached electromagnet to pick up the steel slab and direct it through the plant to the back of the truck. The MOL said the truck driver was standing on the back of the truck to help maneuver the steel slab into position and intended to use wood blocks and chains on the flatbed to secure the slab.

According to the report, when the slab was in position over the truck’s flatbed, it unexpectedly dropped from the electromagnet before it was released by the shipper. The slab fell a distance of two to three feet onto the flatbed, causing the truck driver to fall off the back of the truck onto the concrete floor.

The MOL said the driver was rushed to hospital suffering from fractures; the critical injury, along with complications that included infection, resulted in an amputation.

The MOL investigation determined that the electromagnet had lost power because it had become unplugged and disconnected from its power outlet. It was further determined that the night before, on September 10, 2014, the same electromagnetic crane had accidentally become disconnected from its power source, causing a suspended steel lab to detach and fall in the same fashion, according to the investigation. The MOL said the company’s policies required pre-incident checks of cranes and electromagnets before each use and a lockout procedure if any safety concern respecting a crane or electromagnet existed. Although a prompt request was made for maintenance to examine the machinery the next morning, the electromagnet lifting device was not immediately taken out of service.

The MOL found that the defendant failed to take the reasonable precaution of immediately taking an electromagnetic lifting device out of service after it accidentally disconnected from its power source causing a suspended steel slab to detach and fall on September 10, 2014.

The company pleaded guilty to failing to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker, and was fined $100,000 by Justice of the Peace Jeannie Anand in Mississauga court on April 19, 2016.

In addition to the fine, 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.

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