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Sudbury-area construction company fined $210K for 2018 death of employee

R.M. Bélanger Ltd. found guilty when worker was crushed by a telephone pole at Chelmsford golf course

Construction company R.M. Bélanger Ltd. has been fined $210,000 for the death of a worker who was killed by a wooden telephone pole in the parking lot of a Chelmsford golf course in 2018.

Operating as Bélanger Construction, the company was convicted under the Ontario Health and Safety Act in October 2020 of failing to use a safe procedure for loading a pole onto a flatbed trailer, and failing to ensure that no worker was in an endangered position during the loading of a pole onto a flatbed trailer. 

The sentencing was issued in Provincial Offences Court by Justice of the Peace Kathleen Bryant on Feb. 26.

In September 2018, Bélanger Ltd. was using the parking lot of a golf course to store a number of wooden telephone poles. On Sept. 17 of that year, a worker was dispatched with a truck and flatbed trailer to pick up a pole for use on a Bélanger construction site, the court heard.

At the golf course, a Bélanger worker, who was also a supervisor, was working on the site. When the Bélanger truck pulled into the parking lot, that worker offered to load the required pole for the driver.

Using a machine equipped with a fork attachment, the worker picked up a pole and approached the flatbed trailer. The forks were not spread apart as far as possible, creating instability with the pole as the loader moved. The pole was not secured in any way to the forks.

The truck driver was on the flatbed trailer and had placed a long piece of lumber on the trailer to act as a stopper for the pole. The driver was standing on the other side of the lumber from the side of the trailer approached by the loader.

The operator of the loader tilted the forks forward, dropping the pole onto the flatbed. The pole rolled toward the piece of lumber. The pole had a warp in it, and rolled over the piece of lumber.

The driver, standing on the trailer, tried to jump over the rolling pole but was hit by the pole and was knocked off the trailer. The pole rolled off the trailer onto the worker, inflicting fatal injuries.

The court also imposed a 25 per cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.