The Ontario Court of Appeal has nearly quadrupled the fine for a construction company, for a 2009 Christmas Eve scaffolding accident that caused the deaths of four workers.
Ontario Court of Justice had imposed a fine of $200,000 after Metron Construction Corp. pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death. The Court of Appeal increased the fine to $750,000, Sept 4.
Metron was hired to restore concrete balconies on two Toronto high-rises. Six workers boarded scaffolding on the 14th floor. The scaffolding was only meant to hold the weight of two people, so it was equipped with only included two harnesses. The scaffolding collapsed and four workers died. The two workers wearing harnesses survived.
The Court of Appeal concluded the fine imposed by the Court of Justice was too low and that the court erred by considering similar fines under the Occupational Health & Safety Act, rather than under the Criminal Code.
Section 718.1 of the Criminal Code states: “A sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.” The appeal court found that “Denunciation and deterrence should have received greater emphasis” in sentencing.
This is the first time since the amendment to the Criminal Code in 2004, that an Ontario company has been criminally convicted for workplace deaths.
The decision notes that workers employed by a corporation are entitled to “expect higher standards of conduct than that exhibited by the respondent.”