City of Welland Fined $150,000 After City Worker Dies From Infection Following Injuries
WELLAND, ON - The City of Welland has pleaded guilty and has been fined $150,000 after a city worker died after being critically injured on the job and subsequently contracted an infection from the incident.
On December 9, 2013, the worker was part of a crew of municipal employees sent to a site located at 255 Willson Road in Welland to correct a sewer backup. The crew determined that the sewer/access cover had a blocked lateral pipe and attempted to clear the blockage using a Vactor truck equipped with a rodding system, a process where a vacuum hose sucks waste materials out of the sewer/pipes and into a storage tank and a pressure hose loosens the blockage to facilitate suction.
The crew could only empty approximately six feet of waste and the workers could not actually see the pipe or blockage. The crew then attempted to use the pressure hose to loosen the blockage in the pipe. The pressure hose was attached to a rodder nozzle and lowered into the sewer/access cover towards the unseen lateral pipe; the pressure hose was not equipped with a guide fin. The pressure hose was activated with the rodder nozzle outside the blocked lateral pipe, at which point the hose and nozzle unexpectedly returned, deflected off a crew member and struck the worker. The struck worker received multiple puncture wounds and suffered some blood loss.
An ambulance was called and the worker transported to hospital. Upon arrival the worker was diagnosed with an infection stemming from the incident. The workers was initially hospitalized in the intensive care unit, prescribed antibiotic treatment and maintained on a ventilator and vasopressor. The worker underwent surgery twice for wound closure in an attempt to remove infected and dead tissues.
The worker's condition gradually improved as antibiotic treatment continued and family, friends and co-workers were able to visit but on December 26, 2013, the worker succumbed to the injuries and the infection, and died the same day.
The subsequent coroner's investigation statement indicated that the cause of death was due to an injury at work.
The City of Welland did not report either the critical injury or the fatality to the Ministry of Labour until December 31, 2013. The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires that all industrial accidents that result in critical injury or death must immediately be reported to the Ministry of Labour.
An MOL inspector conducted a field visit on January 10, 2014. The investigation found that workplace had no mandatory written policies or procedures requiring that workers not activate the rodding system when the lateral sewer pipe is not visible; that the Vactor truck's manuals required that workers read and understand the manuals; and that the method used by the crew was inconsistent with a code of practice requiring that operators be qualified by proper training. Manuals indicated that operators should not pressurize the jetting nozzle outside the sewer pipe. In addition, the nozzle should have had a guide fin.
The defendant failed as an employer to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker on safe work practices while operating a jetting assembly on a Vactor truck. After pleading guilty, the Corporation of the City of Welland was fined $150,000 by Justice of the Peace Moira A. Moses in Welland court on December 16, 2015.
In addition to the fine, the court 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
3 Cross Street
Justice of the Peace Moira A. Moses
Date of Sentencing:
December 16, 2015
The Corporation of the City of Welland
60 East Main Street
Occupational health and safety
Occupational Health and Safety Act