“I could have saved a life that day, but I chose to look the other way”
The house Krysztof Mrugala was working on, as a mason, was opulent. The fine the constructor got, for being party to Krysztof's death through lax safety practises, might have built a powder room at this palatial property.
April 13, 2015 by Alec Caldwell
These are the words a co-worker posted online on the Toronto Sun, after his work mate died. Krysztof Mrugala plunged to his death, just after 9a.m. on the morning of August 28, 2012.
I arrived on that job site that very morning, an hour after this 34-year-old construction worker fell 5.5 meters from a scaffolding on a new residential home build, at 30 Fifeshire Rd in Toronto – a very wealthy neighbourhood. I remember the very silent, eerie atmosphere that morning as the workers were being interviewed by the authorities.
I wonder who this unfortunate human being was. And how would the news be broken to his family? I’ve patiently waited since, always wondering what the repercussions would be. It’s now almost three years since that sad day – and the heartache still continues for this young worker’s surviving wife and family.
Well, we are about to find out some news. Just over two weeks ago, an inquest into Kryyztof Mrugala’s death began and the details will come out shortly. At least 12 witnesses were scheduled to testify. Such an inquest is mandatory, under the Coroners Act.
Krysztof is survived by his wife, Aneta Mrugala, and their three young children. Finances must be tight because, according to Aneta, Krysztof never took the step of buying life insurance.
“He was so eager to live and to work for his family,” Aneta told the media. “And death was the last thing on his mind. In fact when I and the family pressured him to buy insurance, he objected and refused the thought of him dying at such a young age.” In hindsight, how wrong he was.
A Ministry of Labour investigation showed that the scaffold did not have a guardrail system to prevent access to the perimeter. VHL Developments Inc., Toronto, pleaded guilty to failing, as a constructor, to ensure that every employer and every worker performing work on the project complies with measures and procedures under section 26.3(1) of Ontario Regulation 213/91. On June 5, 2014, VHL, a developer and builder of condominiums and residences, was fined $125,000
That morning I stood beside what I thought was one of the bosses of VHL, discussing the situation. He seemed devastated. Out of respect, I didn’t want to pry too much into his role. He told me this was his new home. I’m still not sure of his identity.
This new home was absolutely massive and very opulent, with outside gold finishes. I’m guessing $125,000, the amount of the fine, would be about the price of the smallest powder room at this property. The life of a masonry worker equivalent to the price of a powder room. Simply another business expense to that company and even a tax write off at their company’s year end! Terrible.
It’s time the law got serious in prosecuting those found guilty of lack of safety, especially when it causes death. Laws without teeth don’t work.
I believe that, no matter what years of experience you have gathered in construction, it’s never to late to speak up about safety. On hindsight, the work mate who posted the words “I could have saved a life that day, but I chose to look the other way” is maybe now living a lifetime of regret for not following what his intuition told him. Speak up! Let’s break this culture of silence. Remember it only takes around 1.5 seconds to fall from a height of 36 ft. Stop falls before they stop you.
Get fall training, get working at heights training, get life insurance. If you have questions on any of this, we have the answers. Call us toll free at 1.866.366.2930
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Alec CaldwellAlec Caldwell is the Founder of CARAHS, a Health & Safety Organization. We are approved providers by the Ministry of Labour (Ontario) to teach Working at Heights Training (Pro#34609) Visit the Ministry of Labour's web site to view our listing
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