Canadian Township Pleads Guilty in LODD

A township in Ontario, Canada has pled guilty to a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act stemming from the death of a 21 year old volunteer firefighter.

Firefighter Paul Nelson was killed on December 27, 2011 when the Nipissing Township Fire Department tanker he was driving went off the road in a weather related accident. He was a college student at Nipissing University, and was alone in the vehicle at the time.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour alleged that Nelson was ordered to drive the tanker under snowy-slushy conditions despite not being trained in its operation, and filed two charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act against the Nipissing Township Fire Department.

Last week the Township pled guilty to one charge failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker.

According to Ministry of Labor spokesperson Matt Blajer, the Township was sentenced to two years of probation and subject to the jurisdiction of the court such that any further violations will result in a contempt of court citation.

Under the probation order, the fire department must:

  • establish and maintain a driver training and education program with the goal of preventing vehicular crashes, deaths and injuries to members, employees and the public;
  • provide all members with driver training and education commensurate with the duties and functions members are expected to perform in order to ensure that they are able to perform their assigned duties in a manner that does not pose a hazard to themselves, other members, or the general public;
  • provide members with driver training and education appropriate for their duties and responsibilities before being permitted to operate fire department vehicles or apparatus; and
  • maintain driver training records for members that indicate dates, subjects covered, satisfactory completion and any certificates achieved.

No fines were imposed.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
  • Steve

    I don't know how this works with Canadian law, but does this open the door for a lawsuit from the family, civil or otherwise?

    • Steve

      I would say the death itself opened that door… the guilty plea may make it a somewhat easier case to make. However, it can be difficult suing municipalities here in the US given the various types of immunity protection – and its likely to be the same in Canada.

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