Farmer picks fine instead of tomatoes

Don Nelson -
Safety First
- 30 Aug 2007 ( #325 )
3 min read
Don Nelson is a collision investigator for Ground Force Training Inc, of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Email or visit
Ongoing initiatives imposed by Ontario's Ministry of Labour include the assurance of a safer workplace - even when that workplace happens to be a local farm. Not a forklift incident, no; but rest assured, there are forklifts or reasonable facsimiles hard at work on almost any farm and the rules and procedures will apply.

I had to share this report from the ministry's website as a stark reminder that unless all "reasonable" precautions have been taken to avoid workplace accidents and/or injuries, someone WILL pay.

The ministry website includes the following report:
"A Leamington farmer was fined $5,000 today for a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) that resulted in an ankle injury to a young employee.
On September 22, 2006, a worker was standing on a tyre of a 'tomato harvester' (a large petrol-powered vehicle with platforms on each side where workers stand as they harvest tomatoes) when the harvester began reversing.
The worker's legs became caught between the tyre and a metal plate resulting in a broken left ankle. Just prior to the incident, the worker had been helping to pick tomatoes when a chain that was driving a conveyor became jammed. Tomatoes are pulled onto the conveyor which runs through the harvester. The incident occurred at a field at 131 County Road 8 in Leamington.
A Ministry of Labour investigation found the worker had climbed onto the tyre to help search for the source of the conveyor jam. When the problem was not located, M. Douglas Stockwell, who owned the harvester, advised he was going to reverse the harvester for a short distance. Stockwell thought the worker on the tyre had heard him, but the worker had not and continued to stand on the tyre. The ministry found that no formal procedures were in place for the cleaning, maintenance and operation of the harvester and that Stockwell did not ensure the worker was in a safe position before moving the harvester.
M. Douglas Stockwell pleaded guilty, as an employer, to failing to develop and implement a procedure for cleaning, maintaining and operating the tomato harvester and failing to ensure the tomato harvester was not moved until all workers were in a safe position. This was contrary to Section 25(2)(h) of the OHSA. (From June 30, 2006, OHSA coverage was extended to farming operations for the first time).
The fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace Holly Debacker of the Ontario Court of Justice in Leamington. In addition, the court imposed a 25% victim fine surcharge, as required by the Provincial Offences Act.
The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime."

It is important to note that a workplace accident or injury does not have to occur in order for the MOL to impose fines for violations. A routine MOL audit may still result in discovered violations of the OHSA. Every company in Ontario is subject to this legislation, and must be able to prove that an appropriate "Due Diligence" process has been undertaken to protect employees from workplace injuries; primarily employee training, and the proper documentation thereof.
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