On January 11, 2016, Justice Ian MacDonnell sentenced a Project Manager of Metron Construction to 3.5 years in prison as a result of his conviction on four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The charges arose from a tragic accident on December 24, 2009, in which a high-rise swing stage collapsed causing the deaths of four workers and injury to a fifth.
This case is one of only a handful of convictions (and the first in Ontario) under amendments made to the Criminal Code in 2004 that resulted from the Westray Mine disaster in Nova Scotia in 1992. The 2004 amendments created new workplace health and safety obligations and held that organizations, their representatives, and those who direct the work of others can be criminally liable for negligence and other offences including health and safety violations.
Justice MacDonnell held that the Project Manager was criminally negligent since he had become aware that there were only two life lines available for the six workers on the swing stage, yet failed to take steps to rectify the situation. In failing to act, the Project Manager demonstrated wanton and reckless disregard for the safety of the workers and these omissions constituted criminal negligence.
Employers and their representatives should take note of this decision and the fact that they may be held criminally liable for serious health and safety violations that result in bodily harm. Employers should ensure that appropriate workplace health and safety policies and processes are in place, and that all health and safety issues are rectified whenever they arise.