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Ontario Village Fined $93,750 for Training LODD

In Ontario, Canada the Ministry of Labour has fined the Village of Point Edward a total of $93,750 for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act following the 2010 death of a volunteer firefighter. Gary Kendall died on January 30, 2010 during ice rescue training when an unexpected movement of an ice flow pushed him under water for over four minutes.

The Ministry of Labour issued a total of 11 charges against the Village, Fire Chief Doug MacKenzie, and Terry Harrison, who organized the training. On Tuesday, the Village pled guilty to failing to take reasonable precautions to protect a worker, and agreed to pay the fine. In lieu of the plea, the remaining charges against the Village and Chief MacKenzie were withdrawn.

In accepting the plea, Justice Deborah Austin referred to the incident as “a tragically preventable death.” The case against Terry Harrison is scheduled for trial on May 8, 2012.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • J Gordon Routley

    Aside from any issue of responsibility for the tragic death of a firefighter, I believe there is a serious logic gap when a monetary fine is levied against a municipality for actions or inactions that might have contributed to a death. When a fine is levied against a municipality the taxpayers of that jurisdiction end-up paying the bill. At least 99 percent of those taxpayers probably had no control over whatever happened, but they are being fined “to teach them a lesson.”

    The confiscation of $93,750 from the taxpayers of a community with just over 2,000 residents works out to around $46 per person. That sum of money is seized from local resources and transferred to wherever the money from fines is deposited by the provincial government. That is going to leave the local jurisdiction with less resources to spend on local priorities — such as their volunteer fire department.

    It would make much more sense for the judge to order the village to invest in whatever corrective action would be appropriate to prevent a similar occurrence in the future, such as improved training or additional ice rescue equipment. Maybe it would be appropriate to order the village to provide additional compensation to the victim’s family or psychological assistance for the other members of the fire department who were involved in the incident.

    It doesn’t make much sense to me to simply take the money as a fine and assume that it will do some good.

    • http://firelawblog.com Curt Varone

      Hi Chief

      Good to hear from you. I appreciate the thoughts. Here in the US most state DOL/OSHA will do exactly as you suggest – allow the fine money to go towards remedial activities – and it makes alot of sense.

      The very idea of a fine – and the need for it – gets us back to the age old problem: how do we get people to do things right BEFORE someone dies or is seriously injured?

      Most people try to do the right thing… but some times good people rationalize doing the wrong thing… the unsafe thing. They reach a conclusion that certain safety requirements are unnecessary, not worth the time and effort. Staffing, PPE, accountability, training, safety officers … If there are no consequences, why would they spend the money or make the effort to do things right? I believe you investigated a fire where 5 firefighters died and the fire chief publically stated he would attack the fire the exact same way if it happened again… (In fact I think you may have heard that even more recently). How do you get someone like that’s attention?… or his bosses’ attention?

      Unfortunately fines get people’s attention… particularly bean-counters who without the risk of fines/lawsuits would play Russian Roulette with the lives of firefighters and the public with NO CONSEQUENCES. Holding people and organizations financially responsible has been one of the foundational principles of our tort law system. In a perfect world we wouldn’t need to fine anyone… nor sue them. People would do the right thing.