Employer, crane company found guilty in fire that endangered crane operator

HAMILTON: Following a fire at a construction project in Kingston that led to a crane operator being rescued by military helicopter, the company that employed the worker and the company’s owner have been found guilty in court and fined.

On December 17, 2013, a residential construction project located at 663 Princess Street in Kingston caught fire. The crane operator was supplied by A & A Crane Inc. of Waterdown, a company owned by Aram Malek of Hamilton.

To evade the flames and heat of the fire the crane operator was forced to flee the cab and crawl out on the 65-metre-long boom of the crane, which was about 100 metres in the air. A military helicopter from Canadian Forces Base Trenton was sent to conduct an aerial rescue of the crane operator, who suffered burns and was hospitalized.

Two days after the fire and rescue, a Ministry of Labour inspector contacted Malek to request records. The information requested included proof of employment of the worker, the contract between A & A Crane and the constructor, and forms required by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

Some, but not all, of the requested documentation was provided by email and fax. Another ministry inspector attempted to set up a meeting for an interview with Malek but was unable to reach him by telephone or at his residence. Both inspectors testified that, given the lack of response from Malek, they were not able to continue their investigation with respect to A & A Crane or obtain additional information they felt was necessary for the investigation.

Proceeding to trial, on April 30, Justice of the Peace Paul A. Welsh convicted Malek of two counts under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. He was found guilty of knowingly furnishing an inspector with false information or neglecting or refusing to furnish information required by an inspector, and to failing to furnish all necessary means in the person’s power to facilitate any entry, search, inspection, investigation, examination, testing or inquiry by an inspector. He was fined $10,000 and $9,000 respectively.

The company, A & A Crane Inc., was found guilty of failing to comply with a requirement of an inspector in relation to a project located at 663 Princess Street, Kingston, and fined $8,000.

In addition to the fine, the court 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.