Directors’ Liability for Safety: Not just Small-Company Directors are at Risk in Ontario

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In an unusual development, a director of a medium-sized company has been personally found guilty and fined under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The company’s Internet site states that its field personnel include a dozen full time project superintendents, suggesting a medium-sized company. Most directors fined in the past have been in a hands on role with a small company.

In 2008, a worker fell from a cement pier while dismantling a guardrail system in Field, Ont. The worker suffered head and leg injuries, and was sent to hospital.

Bélanger Construction (1981) Inc. and R.M. Bélanger Limited were found guilty of a total of four charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act relating to fall protection, and were fined $290,000 in total plus the 25% Victim Fine Surcharge.

The companies’ director, Ronald Bélanger, was fined $10,000 in relation to the same incident plus the Victim Fine Surcharge. He was found to have failed as a director to ensure that both companies complied with the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.

The Ministry of Labour’s press release states that the court found that the worker was not protected by fall protection of any kind, and that three other workers at the construction project were similarly unprotected. The press release says that there was a lack of equipment for each worker on the job, as well as a lack of proper care and inspection of existing safety equipment. The court also found that the supervisor on site was unqualified.