Project manager convicted in fatal scaffolding collapse
By On-Site MagazineConstruction Law Skills Development
4 workers fell 13 storeys to their death Christmas Eve, 2009
A project manager who oversaw a construction crew involved in a fatal scaffolding collapse in 2009 has been convicted in the deaths of four workers under his charge, The Canadian Press reported.
An Ontario Superior Court judge found Vadim Kazenelson guilty of four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. Kazenelson was aware that fall protections were not in place, but he nevertheless allowed his workers to board the swing stage, the judge said.
”In his failure to act, he showed wanton and reckless disregard,” Judge Ian MacDonnell said in handing down his ruling recently.
Kazenelson sat quietly as his judgment was delivered. Family members of the victims gave each other sombre high-fives and pats on the back as they left the Toronto courtroom following the verdict.
The crew was 13 storeys up when the stage split in two on Christmas Eve in 2009. Kazenelson managed to hold onto a 13th-floor balcony but five men plummeted to the ground. Four died and one suffered serious injuries, while another worker — the only one properly secured to a safety lifeline — was left suspended in mid-air.
That worker, Shohruh Tojiddinov, testified Kazenelson didn’t insist crew members be attached to lifelines.
He also said Kazenelson asked him to lie about the incident afterward.
Alesandrs Bondarevs, Aleksey Blumberg, Vladamir Korostin and site supervisor Fayzullo Fazilov fell 13 floors to their deaths. The men ranged from 25 to 40 years old and were from Lativa, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.
The construction company involved in the case, Metron Construction, pleaded to criminal negligence causing death and was eventually fined $750,000 plus a victim surcharge — the first time in Ontario that the Criminal Code had been used to hold a company responsible for a worker’s death.
The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) President Sid Ryan applauded the criminal conviction, saying it should send a strong message to every employer in the province.
“The conviction of this Metron Project Manager is historic. Since this tragic accident took place in 2009, the Ontario Federation of Labour has been campaigning to put negligent bosses behind bars and today we are one step closer to that goal,” Ryan said in a prepared statement.
“Today, I am putting every Ontario employer on notice: the OFL will vigorously pursue each and every workplace fatality caused by employer negligence until the bosses, managers and front line supervisors responsible get slapped with harsh prison sentences.”
The company that supplied the swing stage, Ottawa-based Swing N Scaff, was fined $350,000 for failing to ensure the platform was in good condition.