Ford fined more than $1 million for worker deaths

Automaker pleads guilty in death of 2 workers in separate accidents at Ontario plants
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 05/26/2010

Ford Motor Company of Canada was fined more than $1 million under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) by the Ontario Court of Justice after two workers were killed in separate accidents at different plants.

On Jan. 31, 2008, Sarwan Baraich, a 20-year Ford veteran, was killed at the company’s assembly plant in Oakville, Ont., after being crushed between two forklifts. Baraich was standing beside a forklift when a co-worker reversed another forklift into him. A Ministry of Labour investigation found the forklift operator did not keep a clear view of the vehicle's path of travel while reversing.

On Jan. 14, 2009, Shara Flanigan, who had been with the company for 12 years, was killed while driving a lift truck carrying an unsecured pallet at Ford's Bramalea parts distribution centre in Brampton, Ont. While Flanigan was driving the lift truck down a narrow aisle, the pallet struck a storage rack. The worker was crushed between the pallet and the vehicle. A Ministry of Labour investigation found Ford's material movement policies and procedures were not adequate.

Ford pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to take all reasonable precautions in the circumstances to protect the safety of the workers.

Baraich was the first Ford worker killed on the job in about 30 years, according to Kerri Stoakley, Ford’s communications director. Stoakley told the Toronto Star the company has reinforced safety requirements regarding looking in the direction of travel in moving materials at all North American operations as a result of the accident that killed Baraich. And the company no longer uses the multi pallet platform that was used in the accident that killed Flanigan.

“The safety of our employees is always of top importance,” Stoakley said. “We have ongoing safety and training programs plus regular safety talks at all our facilities.”

The fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace Jerry Woloschuk on May 25. In addition to the $850,000 fine, the court imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge of $212,500 as required by the Provincial Offences Act — bringing total damages to $1,062,500. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.

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