One construction industry labour advocate is pleased with a recent Ontario court ruling that Metron Construction project manager Vadim Kazenelson will face a criminal trial in connection with the 2009 Christmas Eve swing-stage collapse tragedy.
“My hopes and expectations are that the employer community gets the message that they have major responsibilities and that they should take them absolutely seriously that workers’ lives are important and their freedom could hang in the balance if they don’t protect the lives of those workers,” said Patrick Dillon, Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario business manager.
In the 2009 fatal incident supervisor Fayzullo Fazilov, along with Vladimir Korostin, Aleksey Blumberg and Alexander Bondorev, died after they fell 13 storeys when their swing-stage broke apart while working on a highrise apartment building at 2757 Kipling Ave. in Toronto. Welder Dilshod Marupov, survived the fall, but suffered severe leg and spinal injuries.
In July 2012, Toronto constructor Metron was convicted of criminal negligence causing death, the first conviction of its kind in Ontario under the Criminal Code, and was fined $200,000. Metron director Joel Swartz was fined $90,000 after pleading guilty to several violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, but criminal charges against him were dropped. Swartz and Metron were convicted under: Ontario Regulation 213/91, Section 26.2(1); Ontario Regulation 213/91, Section 26.2(3); Ontario Regulation 213/91, Section 93(2)(a); and Ontario Regulation 213/91, Section 134(3).
Kazenelson and Metron official Benny Saigh were also charged with criminal negligence in October 2010. As Metron has pleaded guilty, Dillon thought the fine should have been more extensive, as the company had faced fines of up to $1 million.
“I think it was an absolute, absolute insult to workers that a judge valued their life at $50,000 apiece and that somehow that judgment ought to be based on what the profitability of the company is. I thought that was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard.”
The Metron fine is being appealed by the Crown on the grounds that is a “manifestly unfit” sentence, given the gravity of the tragedy, reports the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL).
“I agree that it manifestly undervalued the lives of the workers,” Dillon said.
“I don’t think that a dollar value is what will get employer community attention on these types of things. I think it’s them realizing that with every minute of every day on every job site , if they’re lackadaisical about overseeing the workers and preventing the exposures to workers, they’re liable to jail time. I think that will start to wake people up.”
Dillon is looking forward to seeing how the Kazenelson process is handled and if the prosecution is vigorous.
“Everything else has been tried and we’re still killing people with regularity and that has to stop. I don’t want to see anybody going to jail. I want to see everybody living at the end of the work day.”
Follow Kelly Lapointe on Twitter @DCNKelly