Fatalities Result In Largest Ever Canadian Criminal Negligence Fines On Corporation

One should never assume that safety regulation is the same in Canada and other English-speaking countries as in the U.S.  I often look to the U.K., Australian and Canadian Occupational Safety Administrations for practical ideas for compliance, but the systems are quite different.  Read the instructive article on corporate criminal exposure related to safety.

Ontario Court Triples Contractor’s Safety Penalty in 2009 Accident

09/24/2013

By Erin Richey

FROM ENR:  An Ontario Court of Appeals earlier this month more than tripled the criminal negligence fine against Toronto-based contractor Metron Construction in connection with the falling deaths of four employees on Christmas Eve 2009.

The court raised the fine from $200,000 to $750,000 (Canadian), resulting in the largest such fine imposed for criminal negligence on a Canadian corporation.

“It is a recent development that there would be court acceptance of penalties that may bankrupt companies,” wrote Jeremy Warning, a partner in the Toronto office of Montreal-based Heenan Blaikie LLP, a law firm. “It represents a touchstone case…and the penalty imposed by the Court of Appeal will be one by which subsequent penalties, particularly under the Criminal Code, are measured.”

Metron president Joel Swartz pled guilty on behalf of the company to four counts of criminal negligence in 2012. It was the first company convicted in Ontario under criminal negligence provisions of the Criminal Code, amended in 2004 to include corporate liability for senior officers’ actions.

Court documents indicate that the criminal court’s $200,000 fine “was three times the net earnings of [Metron] in its last profitable year.”

(Continue reading at ENR)

 

About mavity2012

I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues. Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession. I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors. I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values. Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral. As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC
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