Automation manufacturer fined $130K for worker death at Ontario plant

Friday July 19, 2019
Written by Ontario Ministry of Labour
July 19, 2019 – Access Limited, a Japanese engineering company that develops, designs and manufactures automation equipment, has been fined $130,000 by the Ontario Ministry of Labour after pleading guilty to an offence involving the death of a worker at an Ontario plant.

The court also 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.

Access Limited manufactures equipment for automated press and machine lines and provides production start-up and service support. The incident occurred during a construction project at a manufacturing facility located at 1 Nolan Road in Tottenham, Ontario.

On the evening of August 30, 2017, two workers employed by Access Limited were assisting with the installation of a new metal stamping press and feeder. It was determined it would be safer to do so overnight when the equipment was not being operated by press technicians.

The power to the press machine was turned off but a piece of equipment known as a "destacker feeder" remained powered and operational.

One of the workers briefly left the work area in the early hours of August 31 and observed the other worker performing diagnostic testing at the destacker feeder control panel.

Upon returning, the worker discovered the victim's body positioned in front of a part of the destacker feeder known as the "DB bucket car." This car is a small mechanized cart that travels along rails. There is fencing surrounding the loading area for the bucket car, which has an opening that allows the car to leave the loading area to the unloading area.

The body was found pinned between the edge of the bucket car and the frame of the fencing that surrounds the bucket car opening. There were no witnesses to the incident.

The Ministry of Labour investiga ted the incident and determined the likely cause of the fatality was that while the worker was present within the fenced area, the bucket car started and moved along the rail towards the opening of the fence and the worker.

The investigation also revealed that safety interlock circuits were installed around the bucket car. If the fence door to the loading area is open or not present, the safety interlock circuits would be triggered and the bucket car would be prevented from moving. However, these safety interlock circuits had been overridden. The investigation did not reveal who overrode the interlock circuits or why.

Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act requires an employer to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.

The investigation determined that a reasonable precaution would have been to ensure control switches or mechanisms for the bucket car were locked out to prevent the starting of the bucket car where the starting of the car may endanger a worker. It was found that there were no other effective precautions taken by the company to prevent the starting of the bucket car where a worker may be endangered by such movement.

As such, the Ministry of Labour found that Access Limited failed to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances.

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