January 14, 2002

$150,000 fine levied in dough mixer fatality

A tragic accident, in which a teenage worker died after he became trapped in a dough mixer and the machine was activated, has ended with a single guilty plea from an Ontario company and a $150,000 fine.

Representatives for Fiera Foods of Toronto, Ont pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the control switches or other control mechanisms were locked out and other precautions taken to prevent the machine from starting when a worker's safety could be endangered, says a statement from the Ministry of Labour (MoL).

Ivan Golyashov, an employee of Temp Industrial Consulting Company, had been assigned to work at Fiera Foods in September 1999 (COHSN December 4, 2000). Golyashov, 17, was cleaning the drum inside a dough mixing machine when a co-worker inadvertently pushed two wrong buttons controlling the mixer and the de-vice was set in motion.

An agreed statement of facts presented at court says Golyashov asked his co-worker to push the button to completely open the mixer's loading door so he could exit. The fellow employee pushed the wrong button and Golyashov began shouting. The co-worker then pushed another button, which activated the large mixer.

A supervisor heard the co-worker's call for help and turned off the machine. Golyashov suffered severe head and torso injuries. He was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital.

An MoL investigation found the mixer could be activated because the power switch on its main electrical panel was not locked out.

Peter Kormos, labour critic for the Ontario NDP, says hitting companies with fines appears to be doing little to enhance health and safety on the shop floor. "People have to start going to jail. Not just supervisors, but company directors. That's where the policies start," Kormos says. Jail sentences should be ordered for "management who develop and maintain policies that put workers at risk," he argues.

"We have no qualms about sending a drunk driver who killed someone to jail," Kormos told COHSN. The seriousness of workplace accidents has been diminished and monetary penalties do little to rectify the situation, he adds.

Boris Serebryany, a director with Fiera Foods, was originally charged with failing to ensure machinery was locked out, failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker, and hindering, obstructing, molesting or interfering with an inspector in the exercise of his or her powers of performance under Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act or regulations.

The charges against Serebryany were withdrawn, confirms Crown counsel Victoria Kondo. Following an assessment of the evidence, "the Crown was satisfied that the withdrawal was appropriate," Kondo says.

Charges citing the company's alleged failure to provide information, instruction and supervision to

a worker, and its failure to ensure equipment, materials and protective devices are maintained in good condition were also withdrawn, she notes.

Darryl Mann, a lawyer representing Fiera Foods, was unavailable for comment. Mann told COHSN after the charges were laid, however, that company officials looked "at everything associated with the workplace" following the deadly accident. He would not comment on training at that time.

Counsel for the Crown and Fiera Foods recommended the $150,000 fine and Judge Harvey Salem of the Ontario Court of Justice agreed. Kondo hopes the penalty sends a clear message "to the business community about the importance of health and safety."

But Kormos contends more needs to be done to ensure improved workplace health and safety is realized. Workers, along with senior company officials, must be involved in the development of oh&s actions, employees must be educated regarding their right to refuse unsafe work and workers must be able to recognize unsafe work.

Labour minister Chris Stockwell recently agreed to a new policy, spearheaded by Kormos, to post information in the workplace that informs employees of their legal right to refuse dangerous work without penalty from their employer. The information should be presented in an easy-to-read format and be available in various languages.

Kormos calls the policy a major workplace safety reform, but adds a posting without worker education of what represents unsafe work will not be effective.

Temp Industrial, which also faces two charges under the OHSA, will be in court next month.

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