Employer Fined $10,000 in Death of Logging Worker
WALKERTON, ONTARIO - A small-business employer pleaded guilty and has been fined $10,000 after a worker was killed by the inadvertent movement of a felled tree.
The incident took place in a woodlot located near 931 Concession #2 in Saugeen Shores, which is located in Bruce County, Ontario.
On September 10, 2015, the employer, William Witter, was contracted to cut and harvest logs from a woodlot located near 931 Concession #2 in Saugeen Shores. On that day, the defendant was logging at the workplace with his employee. The employee was cutting trees down and topping them, while Witter was operating a "skidder" (a vehicle used to pull logs out of a forest).
The employee was in the process of cutting the limbs from an ash tree that had just been cut down. This tree had two branches at the top forming a Y shape. The employee cut the first branch off and proceeded to cut the second branch off; the defendant hooked the cable to the log to prepare the log to be moved by the skidder. The employee signaled that the defendant could safely begin pulling the log and stepped back. The defendant started to winch the log with the skidder; however, as soon as he moved the log, the employee fell backwards and was unresponsive.
Emergency services were called but the employee was pronounced deceased. The coroner later concluded that the cause of death was severe injury due to blunt force trauma.
The investigation by the Ministry of Labour revealed that a number of "chicots" had been left standing in the area where the ash tree had been felled, as well as in other areas where the two had been working. The term "chicot" is defined in section 103 of Ontario Regulation 851 - the Industrial Establishments Regulation - as "a dead tree, or a dead limb of a tree that may endanger a worker." Investigation also revealed that the employee had not cut the second limb of the ash tree all the way through; when the defendant started to winch the log with the skidder, the log and the attached limb struck a chicot that had been left standing. The chicot fell over and struck the employee, causing the injuries that led to the employee's death.
Section 109(a)(iii) of the regulation provides that "a tree shall be felled only ... after all chicots and spring poles in the vicinity of the tree being felled have been lowered safely to the ground."
Witter pleaded guilty to failing as an employer to ensure that the measures and procedures prescribed in section 109(a)(iii) of the regulation were carried out at the workplace, contrary to section 25(1)(c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. He pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000 by Justice of the Peace Michael A. Cuthbertson in Walkerton court on January 26, 2017.
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.
Court Information at a Glance
Provincial Offences Court/Ontario Court of Justice
215 Cayley Street
Justice of the Peace Michael A. Cuthbertson
Date of Sentencing:
January 26, 2017
Occupational health and safety
Occupational Health and Safety Act
Ontario Regulation 851 (Regulation for Industrial Establishments)
The above court bulletin is provided by Ontario Ministry of Labour.
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