Ottawa condo builders fined $677,500 after worker fatality

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Several construction firms and supervisors have been fined a total of $677,500 after a worker was killed during excavation for a new Ottawa condo development.

The incident took place during the construction of a 46-storey condominium with a nine-storey underground parking garage at 505 Preston Street in Ottawa’s west end. The project was being carried out by Claridge Homes with Bellai Brothers covering structural concrete work. It involved the excavation of a 30-metre deep basement, one of the deepest of its kind in Canada.

On March 23, 2016, 24-year-old Olivier Bruneau was struck by a large piece of ice shortly after going into the excavation area. Despite efforts by emergency workers, the Gatineau man succumbed to his injuries shortly thereafter.

Efforts had been taken to protect the excavation site from the falling ice caused by cold temperatures. Companies were hired to power wash the ice with hot water from pump trucks and scrape the ice from the lower portions of the wall with an excavator, while Bellai Brothers also stepped in periodically to knock ice from the walls. Metal netting and tarps were also hung approximately four metres down near the top of the south excavation wall face.

Further precautions were also taken when a worker and safety rep with Bellai Brothers was struck in the back from falling ice from the south wall on February 4, 2016, and received minor injuries. A same-day investigation by the Ministry of Labour determined no further precautions were needed; however, a fence was erected along the south wall and workers were routinely cautioned.

The fatal incident occurred days after crews removed the excavated rock pile in front of the south wall, but did not re-install the snow fence. Bruneau was over 20 feet from the south wall when he was struck. According to the Court Bulletin, the defendants, “failed to ensure that a wall of an excavation was stripped of loose ice that that may slide, roll or fall upon a worker, contrary to section 232(1) of Ontario Regulation 213/91, the Construction Projects Regulation.”

Following guilty pleas, Claridge Homes and Bellai Brothers were each fined $325,000 while site supervisors Leo Simard and Michael Lwow were fined $15,000 and $12,500, respectively. Additionally, the court imposed a 25 per cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act, which is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.

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