City fined following OHS charges

by Derek Cornet

The City of Meadow Lake has been slapped with a fine of $11,200 after pleading guilty to two charges under occupational health and safety legislation.

Shortly before the city was sentenced Feb. 24 in Meadow Lake Provincial Court, associate regional prosecutor Bruce Bauer said, on Sept. 7, 2011, an inspector with Occupational Health and Safety visited a construction site on 7th Street West where he observed a worker at the bottom of an unshored trench. When the inspector asked the worker to exit, the worker had no means of doing so. The inspector also noticed water had accumulated at the bottom of the trench.

As a result, the city was charged with five offences – three of which were withdrawn – under The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. The city pleaded guilty to failing to ensure a worker was protected from cave-ins or sliding material in the trench, and failing to ensure the trench the worker was required, or permitted to, enter was kept free from an accumulation of water. The city was fined $8,400 and $2,800 respectively.

Lawyer Leonard Francis of Meadow Lake defended the city in court and submitted the city’s guilty plea. He told the presiding judge the city has taken steps to ensure the safety of its workers.

“Since the incident, the city has implemented procedures and protocols to improve safety,” he said.

City manager Diana Burton said the municipality has conducted additional training with staff and has also purchased a cage for excavation or trench work. She added the safety of employees was important to the city as well as adhering to occupational health and safety requirements.
As for the payment of fines, Burton said, although the city was expecting to be charged and fined, no money was set aside to flip the bill which now forces the city to tweak its budget.

“We’ll have to determine where we can make adjustments to the budget,” Burton said.

The city was previously found guilty of an occupational health and safety offence in 2012 in connection with an incident dating back to September 2010. In that case, the city failed to ensure workers Mike Sonntag and Paul Anderson were properly protected from potential cave-ins and sliding material. In addition, the municipality failed to ensure the place of employment was sufficiently and competently supervised – one of the three charges withdrawn last week with regard to the 2011 incident.

In 2012, the city also pleaded guilty to the 2010 offences and was charged more than $6,000.

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