Fines not good enough after fatal building collapse: OFL

Ontario Construction News staff writer

Labour leaders are slamming what they call inadequate penalties imposed on two companies found responsible for a partial building collapse that killed two construction workers and injured several others.

East Elgin Concrete Forming, a Tillsonburg-based concrete contractor that employed the workers and iSpanSystems LP, a Woodstock-based steel joist manufacturer, were convicted of Ontario Health and Safety Act charges linked to the deadly incident on December 2020 in London. They were fined a total of $400,000.

“When we see fines like this being levied, they fall completely short. Let’s be clear, it’s just a fine,” Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) President Laura Walton said on social media. “It really shows, quite frankly, that the current system is not working for workers.

“My thoughts go out to the families of those workers. This minimal fine is not going to bring any peace for them.”

Henry Harder, 26, and John Martens, 21, were killed when a portion of the building they were working on at 555 Teeple Terrace, known as the Nest, collapsed on the roof level during a concrete pour.

Four other workers were critically hurt, according to the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD).

The London and District Labour Council is also demanding the province do more to ensure companies that violate workplace safety laws get more than just a slap on the wrist.

President Patti Dalton was quoted in the London Free Press:

“One worker’s death is one too many. We have repeatedly seen that fines and financial penalties are not enough.”

Earlier story: Contractors face $400,000 in fines after deadly Ontario building collapse

On Dec. 11, 2020, a section of a building under construction collapsed to the ground during a fourth-floor roof level concrete pour, resulting in fatal injuries to two workers and critical injuries to four other workers.

iSpan Systems LP fabricated the building’s structural steel frame, including the frames necessary to support the concrete forms. East Elgin Concrete Forming Ltd. was responsible for the concrete pour, retaining supervisory duties while subcontracting the roof pour to another company.

A MLITSD investigation identified deficiencies in iSpan’s fabrication and methodological errors in East Elgin’s procedures that contributed to the collapse.

East Elgin employed a laser level and directed the subcontractor to pour to the height of the laser level. The laser level on its own failed to account for the deflection of the steel frame that occurred from the weight of the concrete. The use of a dipstick would have remedied this problem by providing a true reading of concrete depth during the deflection process.

As a result, workers were left with the incorrect assumption that the concrete depth was insufficient at certain locations in the pour. Consequently, more concrete was applied than had been specified by iSpan.

An engineering analysis carried out by MLITSD engineers determined that the concrete placed exceeded the design values by considerable amounts. The weight of the applied concrete contributed to the collapse and/or its severity.

The analysis found another contributing cause of the collapse was the failure of a roof beam support, referred to as a beam pocket. The loads transferred to this beam pocket from the stud packs exceeded its ultimate load carrying capacity resulting in the failure.

The analysis revealed that while iSpan’s approved engineering drawings specified a 14-gauge deep track for the stud pack, an iSpan employee changed the deep track to a thinner and shorter 16-gauge shallow track. Additionally, the welds between the studs were placed lower than had been specified by the fabrication drawings which may again have reduced its capacity.

iSpan’s quality control department failed to detect these errors, the MLITSD report indicated.

If the wall had been fabricated as designed, it would have possessed a sufficient margin of safety to account for the overpouring of concrete and the collapse could have been avoided.

iSpan failed, as an employer, to ensure that a building, structure or any part thereof, or any other part of a workplace, whether temporary or permanent, was capable of supporting any loads that may be applied to it in accordance with good engineering practice, contrary to section 25(1)(e)(iii) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the MLITSD said in a statement.

East Elgin failed, as an employer, to provide proper information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health and safety of a worker, contrary to section 25(2)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, MLITSD says.


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