Canadian Contractor

Construction trench fatality in Toronto: there are NO "accidents"

"These deaths always stem from human error, be it lack of training, pushing too fast and taking shortcuts, lack of equipment, or poor supervision."

July 30, 2014
By Alec Caldwell
Alec Caldwell

In Toronto, on Thursday July 24, another residential construction worker died in the line of duty. He was digging out the front part of the foundation of a house and the soil collapsed back in on him. He was “only” buried up to his stomach – but the weight was enough to stop him from breathing. He died of “positional asphyxia” before he could be dug out. Horrifying.

Why would this worker – or anyone else in his life when he woke up that morning – think that his life would be over within hours? He was, of course, going to be home for supper with his loving family waiting for him.

But he didn’t clock his card out that day and he never will again.

There will be no special day of mourning for him, no draped coffin, no flag bearers. There are few editorial writers telling the public that this carnage must stop.

There was only a small mention of this man’s death in the next morning’s Toronto Star. Ten (10) lines on the last page of the “GTA” section.

Last September 20, there was a happier story. Toronto firefighters rescued two construction workers who were trapped in a trench that day. Fire captain Mike Strapko said eight trucks and 30 firefighters were involved in the rescue. The mens’ families were shaken up – but not destroyed. I hope the men are back at work.

But last year, March 12, we had another trench death in the GTA.

In British Columbia, the RCMP is performing an investigation following a workplace accident that resulted in the death of a 28-year-old pipe layer, Jeff Caron, and injury of Thomas Richer. The incident took place when a wall collapsed while the two were replacing sewer lines in Burnaby. WorkSafeBC  investigated the incident and concluded that a series of failures contributed to the death. (View this Excavations: A guide to safe work practices video. It’s 20 minutes of instruction to possibly save your life.

Let’s be honest, there are no such thing as an “accident.” These deaths always stem from human error, be it lack of training, pushing too fast and taking shortcuts, lack of equipment, or poor supervision. Or perhaps the job was awarded to the lowest bidder at a price so low that all of the above will come into play, in pursuit of profit.

There are many factors that can cause these occurrences and they come to light after investigation. On prosecution, all those found guilty of not protecting these individuals’ lives or health, as prescribed (in Ontario) under the Occupational Health & Safety Act, will pay a price. But they won’t pay the ultimate price that their workers did.

Those workers who died, leave behind wives/spouses/girlfriends/children.

The families have to pay with staggering grief and pain – and they have to pay with financial struggles. The money received afterwards by families from places like WSIB or the victims fund will be a mere pittance. Last week, a worker came up to me and said his dad was killed last year in an accident when the scissor lift he was on was pushed over and he was crushed. His spouse received some money, a small pittance for a life, but she wants justice and those found guilty to face higher prosecution for their neglect. It’s never easy to do this on your own, especially when you’ve only been in Canada for a short time and English is your second language.

By providing education and training, CARAHS reduces your risk of fines, job site closures and prosecution under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Passion – Commitment – CARAHS – Toll free 1 866-366 2930

CARAHS has over 130 online Health & Safety e-courses




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