On August 25, 2017, Aallcann Wood Suppliers Incorporated, a Saskatchewan wood supply company, pleaded guilty to one violation of that province's occupational health and safety legislation. The charge stemmed from an incident that took place on October 29, 2015. On that date, a worker was removing debris from a wood peeler and had several fingers severed after he came into contact with rotating teeth on the equipment.
The employer was plead guilty to contravening section 139(1) of Saskatchewan's Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. That section requires that any maintenance, repair, test or adjustment of a machine, other than a power tool, is done only when the machine is locked out. Under the Regulations, a machine may be cleaned, lubricated or adjusted when it is in motion or under power if written work practices and procedures have been developed and implemented to ensure that the work is done in a safe manner, if the workers who are to perform the work have been trained in those practices and procedures and if a copy of the work practices and procedures are readily available for reference by the workers.
After its guilty plea, the company was fined $28,571.43 plus a surcharge of $11,428.57. Three additional charges were stayed by the court. The maximum penalty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, where a person is guilty of an offence that causes the death or serious injury to a worker, is $300,000.
Moving equipment and machinery in workplaces represent a significant workplace hazard. This recent case is a reminder to employers to ensure that they have written policies in place with respect to locking out equipment before it is maintained or adjusted, especially given the serious or even fatal injuries that can occur. Workers and supervisors should be trained on those policies and they need to be enforced by front-line supervisors and senior management.