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Crushed by a backhoe

Prosecution in worker's death leads to second C-45 ("Westray Act") conviction.

Dateline: Tuesday, February 22, 2011

from the Workers Health And Safety Centre

For just the second time in Canada, an employer has been convicted of criminal negligence stemming from a workplace incident leading to the death of a worker.

Pasquale Scrocca, owner of a Quebec landscape company, was operating a backhoe on June 12, 2006, when it rolled down a slope pinning his employee against a wall. The worker, Aniello Boccanfuso suffered fatal injuries.

 

In Ontario, three company executives currently face criminal negligence charges from a swing stage collapse that killed four workers and seriously injured another.

The front brakes and the emergency brake on the backhoe were found to be completely non-functional. It also came to light that the backhoe, bought in 1976, had not undergone any regular maintenance.

Consequently, the court found there was a breach of the "legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to a person" imposed on an employer by section 217.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada. Scrocca will serve a conditional sentence of imprisonment of two years less a day. The sentence will be served in the community with conditions, including a curfew.

The legal duty mentioned above was added to the Criminal Code with the enactment of Bill C-45 on March 31, 2004. This Bill, also commonly referred to as the Westray Bill, was the result of a dedicated lobbying campaign by the United Steelworkers Union and supported by the New Democratic Party and wider labour movement in response to the Westray mine explosion on May 9, 1992 where 26 men were killed.

Prior to this case, just one company has been convicted under section 217.1 of the Criminal Code. Montreal-based Transpave plead guilty in December, 2007 to criminal negligence charges as a result of the workplace death of 23 year old Steve L'Ecuyer.

Here in Ontario, three company executives are currently facing criminal negligence charges stemming from the December 24, 2009 swing stage collapse that killed four workers and seriously injured another. Vadim Kazenelson, Joel Swartz and Benny Saigh along with Metron Construction Corporation have been charged with four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

Individuals convicted of C-45 charges can be sentenced to serve up to life in prison, while the corporation can face a limitless fine.

First established in 1979 with seed money from the Ontario Lottery Corporation, the Workers Health & Safety Centre has grown into Ontario's premier health and safety training and information service provider. For more than 25 years, the WHSC has supported the efforts of workplace representatives in their pursuit of hazard-free workplaces. This support has ranged from answering health and safety concerns posed over the phone to the development and delivery of occupational health and safety training.

Submissions are encouraged. Reproduction is permitted, provided the source is acknowledged and a copy sent to the Director, Information Services.

References
  WHSC contact information
  More on the most recent C-45 conviction
  More on the criminal charges here in Ontario relating to the December 24, 2009 migrant worker deaths
  WHSC website


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