TORONTO—Water and sewer contractor Utility Force Inc. of Toronto pleaded guilty and was fined $75,000 in court recently after an incident two years ago in which a worker died in a trench collapse.
On July 24, 2014, the company was engaged in the installation of water and sewer lines at a residential construction site on Venn Crescent in the city of Toronto, indicates a Ministry of Labour media statement released Oct. 12.
A backhoe operator dug a trench from each of two residences, joining into a single trench in a "Y" configuration leading to the municipal water and sewermain lines. The depth of the excavation at one of the residences was about 10 or 11 feet.
The sides of the excavation were not sloped and excavated material had been piled about three feet from the edge of the trench.
An eight-foot-deep by 10-foot-long shoring box was available, sitting on a flatbed trailer a short distance from the excavation. The dimensions of that trench box were not sufficient to shore a 10- to 11-foot deep excavation.
One of the workers entered the unshored trench to clear dirt away that had fallen onto the pipe, despite other workers' urging to the contrary. At that point the supervisor was sitting in a truck completing paperwork and did not see or instruct the worker about entering the trench, the ministry reports.
The side of the excavation collapsed, burying the worker in the trench up to the chest. Another worker, the supervisor and two responding police officers jumped into the trench in an attempt to free the trapped worker; however, the commander of the responding fire department ordered everyone out of the excavation. Moments later a second cave-in completely buried the worker and the worker died as a result of that trench collapse.
A Ministry of Labour investigation found that Utility Force had no documented training of its employees on that crew relating to the hazard of working in trenches or of the legal requirement for the use of shoring boxes if entering an unsloped trench.
The company was fined $75,000 by Judge Howard Borenstein in a Toronto court on Oct. 7.