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Company fined for crane accident

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 02/27/2019 9:00 AM

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A metal fabrication company near Blumenort was fined yesterday in Winnipeg provincial court for a 2016 workplace accident that left an employee with "long-lasting injuries."

Judge Herbert Allen ordered Imperial Metal Industries Inc. to pay a $30,000 fine and $7,500 victim surcharge for failing to provide an employee with adequate equipment, training, and supervision on Aug. 15, 2016.

On Tuesday, Kelly Friesen, the company’s president, pleaded guilty to two charges under the Workplace Safety and Health Act. Crown attorney Adam Gingera stayed an additional nine counts.

According to an agreed statement of facts read in court, the incident occurred shortly before 2 p.m. at the company’s shop just north of Blumenort in the RM of Ste Anne, where it relocated from Steinbach in 2013.

Four employees were using an overhead crane and rigging to manoeuvre a welded steel frame weighing more than 3,300 pounds onto sawhorses.

The crane was rated for up to 4,000 pounds, Gingera said, and a foreman was at the controls, but a safety mechanism called a tag line wasn’t used properly during the lift.

While airborne, the frame’s lighter side rose faster, so the worker pushed down on it to raise the heavier end. As he pulled it toward the sawhorses, a chain broke out of a hook, pinning his foot under the frame.

"It’s a very unfortunate occurrence," the judge remarked.

The worker was transported to Bethesda Regional Health Centre and, later, Health Sciences Centre, with injuries that included a fractured femur. A hospital bed was later installed in his home.

He told the Crown last December he wears a leg brace and continues to live with the effects of the injury. Unable to work in manufacturing, he is retraining at Red River College, Gingera said.

Following the accident, Imperial Metal Industries was issued a stop-work order by Manitoba Workplace Health & Safety, who categorized the incident as a serious.

The company cooperated with a subsequent investigation, and had no prior stop-work orders of this nature, Gingera said. After the investigation, the company complied with orders to improve safety training and equipment.

Workplace Safety & Health issued the company two more stop-work orders on May 9, 2018 for contravening regulations on fall protection and scaffolding, but no penalties or convictions resulted, a database search showed.

The company retains its COR (Certificate of Recognition) safety status with the Construction Safety Association of Manitoba. The national audit program verifies companies’ health and safety protocols.

Representatives from the company first appeared in court on the charges last September, intending to plead not guilty and proceed to trial without a lawyer. A judge advised them to consider retaining legal counsel.

On Tuesday, the 36-year-old company, which employs approximately 50 people, was represented by defence attorneys Robert Olson and Colton Hnatiuk.

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