Today, Metron Construction Corporation, the first corporation convicted in Ontario under the Criminal Code as amended by Bill C-45 in 2004, was fined $200,000 following it’s June 15, 2012, guilty plea to a charge of criminal negligence causing death. It’s president was also fined $90,000 after pleading guilty to four charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The charges arose from a Christmas Eve 2009 accident in which five workers fell thirteen storeys after the collapse of a swing stage. Four workers were killed and the fifth was seriously injured. The penalty imposed on Metron represents the highest fine imposed for criminal negligence arising from a workplace accident in Canadian history. The only previous corporate criminal negligence conviction in such a matter, occurred in Quebec in 2008. It involved Transpavé Inc. which was fined $100,000 after a worker was crushed in a piece of machinery. Similarly, the $90,000 fine imposed on Metron’s president is the highest monetary penalty ever imposed under OHS legislation in Canada.
With respect to the criminal negligence charge, the Crown had sought a fine of $1,000,000 while Metron had argued that a fine of $100,000 was appropriate. In his reasons for judgment, Justice Robert Bigelow considered the Criminal Code sentencing factors applicable to corporations and found that Metron had not realized any advantage as a result of the offence, that the offence was not planned, the company president had been fined as a result of the incident, and that neither Metron nor any of its representatives had been convicted or sanctioned by any regulatory body for similar conduct in the past. Justice Bigelow also found that imposing the fine sought by the Crown would likely result in Metron’s bankruptcy. Ultimately, Justice Bigelow held that the $342,500 in fines and surcharges payable by Metron and its president, which amounted to three times Metron’s net earnings in its last profitable year (the year before the accident), would send a clear message to all businesses of the overwhelming importance of ensuring worker safety.
In imposing sentence on Metron’s president, the court accepted the joint submission that was presented to him by the Crown and defence. His Honour commented that the case involved serious breaches of health and safety legislation that resulted in horribly tragic consequences. However, the defendant had over 20 years of experience in the construction industry without any violations of health and safety legislation. After considering those circumstances, Justice Bigelow found that the jointly recommended penalty would not be contrary to the administration of justice.
The fines and surcharges imposed on Metron and its president are to be fully paid within one year.
For more detailed analysis and commentary on today’s decision, please see our OHS & Workers’ Compensation Management Update.