Construction manager jailed for fatal swing stage accident
By On-Site MagazineConstruction Construction Materials Health & Safety Labour Law construction health and safety Kazenelson Metron scaffold swing stage workplace accident
4 workers fell 13 storeys to their death Christmas Eve, 2009
TORONTO — A Toronto project manager who oversaw a construction crew involved in a deadly swing stage collapse in 2009 has been sentenced to three and a half years behind bars, according to a report today from Canadian Press.
Vadim Kazenelson was found guilty last June on four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
The judge presiding over the case found Kazenelson was aware that protections against falls were not in place, but still allowed his workers to board a swing stage that collapsed, causing five workers to plummet to the ground. Four died.
Justice Ian MacDonnell says the sentence he has imposed is proportionate to the gravity of Kazenelson’s offences.
“The seriousness of the offences committed by Mr. Kazenelson and their consequences cannot be doubted,” he said. “A significant term of imprisonment is necessary to reflect the terrible consequences of the offences.”
MacDonnell said that, notwithstanding his actions on the day of the scaffolding collapse, Kazenelson was “unquestionably a man of good character.”
But he said the 40-year-old’s breach of duty that day was more than a momentary lapse.
The Crown prosecutor in the case had recommended between four to five years in prison, while Kazenelson’s lawyer argued for a sentence of one to two years.
Kazenelson has told the court he’s sorry for what happened.
On the day when the scaffolding collapse occurred — Christmas Eve 2009 — six workers who were rushing to meet a construction deadline had got onto a swing stage they had been using to go up and down the outside of a building, but the stage only had two safety lifelines, court heard.
At that point, Kazenelson, who had arrived partway through the work that was being done, was still on a 13th floor balcony, handing tools to the workers on the stage, court heard.
The trial heard Kazenelson asked the site foreman, who was present, about the lifelines at one point, but was told by him not to worry and no more was said.
“In a sense, he inherited a problem that was created by his foreman,” MacDonnell acknowledged, before noting that Kazenelson nonetheless did not insist that safety measures be taken once he became aware of the situation.
“Mr. Kazenelson adverted to the risk, weighed it against (construction company) Metron’s interest to keep the work going and decided to take a chance.”
The trial heard that Kazenelson managed to hold onto a balcony when the swing stage suddenly split in two.
Alesandrs Bondarevs, Aleksey Blumberg, Vladamir Korostin and foreman Fayzullo Fazilov fell to their deaths, while Dilshod Marupov survived the fall with fractures to his spine and ribs.
The men ranged from 21 to 40 years old and were from Latvia, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.
Only one worker, who was the sole person properly secured to a lifeline, was left suspended in mid-air until Kazenelson hauled him up onto a balcony, court heard.
Metron owner Joel Swartz and his company were initially fined a total $342,000 in 2012 in connection to the swing stage tragedy. On appeal, those fines jumped to $750,000 a year later. The swing stage supplier, Swing N Scaff Inc. of Ottawa, was also fined $350,000 for failing to ensure the platform was in good condition.
Kazenelson was released on bail pending an appeal.