Companies face $17 million in fines, $30 million in lawsuits from construction accident

Health and safety investigation leads to 61 charges against companies and directors, supervisor; injured worker and estate of killed worker file lawsuits
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 08/17/2010

Two Ontario companies are facing $17 million in fines and a $30 million in lawsuits stemming from a Christmas Eve 2009 accident in which four foreign workers fell to their deaths.

On Dec. 24, 2009, scaffolding on the side of a high-rise building in Toronto broke apart while five workers were on it. The workers fell 13 storeys to the ground, killing four of the men. One worker, 22-year-old Dilshod Marupov, survived but suffered a broken spine and two broken legs.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour recently announced that, after a seven-month investigation, it was laying a total of 61 charges against the workers’ employer, Metron Construction (30 charges), and Swing ‘N’ Scaff, the supplier of the scaffolding (four charges), a director of each company (19 charges) and a supervisor (eight charges). The charges included failure to ensure workers used devices to prevent them from falling, failure to ensure the platform wasn’t overloaded, failure to ensure the platform was designed according to safety regulations and failure to ensure the workers were properly trained. The individuals were charged with improper training of employees.

The two companies could face fines of up to $500,000 for each charge, while the individuals could be fined up to $25,000 and face 12 months in jail for each charge, bringing the total maximum fines to more than $17 million.

A few days after the charges were announced, Marupov launched his own lawsuit against the companies, the building owner and the Ministry of Labour, seeking $16.3 million in damages. The lawsuit, which hasn’t been certified or proven in court, claims the workers weren’t trained properly or given safety gear. It also alleges the scaffolding was faulty. The ministry is included because the suit claims it allowed the companies to continue operating at the worksite despite two previous stop work orders for safety violations.

Several months after the incident, Marupov can walk with a walker, but only for a short distance.

Marupov’s lawyer, William Friedman, also launched a $14 million lawsuit on behalf of the estate of one of the workers killed. The worker was in Canada to support his family back in Uzbekistan.

“These were very new immigrants, not very knowledgeable, used as cheap labour and not told how to safely work on the 13th floor of a building,” Friedman told the Toronto Star.

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