A concrete block manufacturer in Quebec was recently fined $110,000 after pleading guilty to criminal negligence causing death. The charges arose from the 2005 death of a 23 year old worker who was crushed by a palletizer while trying to clear a row of blocks that had piled up following a mechanical jam.
In the first prosecution of its kind, the victim’s employer was charged under new Criminal Code provisions which impose a duty on organizations to ensure workplace safety. Under the provisions, an organization may be held criminally negligent when an employee is harmed in the course of his work.
The company pled guilty to the charges, and admitted it failed to meet a number of its duties under health and safety regulations, including failing to ensure that the palletizer’s motion detector safety device was activated at all times when the machine was on.
While the company did not have a record of similar offences, the Court noted that the offence was serious because it resulted in a person’s death. In determining the amount of the fine, the Court found it significant that the offence occurred through the company’s inaction rather than action, and that the infraction did not benefit the company in any way. Finally, the Court took into account that the company did not attempt to conceal any assets in order to appear incapable of paying a fine and that it implemented measures following the accident to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring in the future.