St. Marys Cement fined $75,000 after worker trapped in hopper and injured

NEWMARKET: St. Marys Cement, a manufacturer of cement and related construction products, pleaded guilty and was fined $75,000 after a worker was trapped in a sand and gravel hopper and suffered a leg injury as a result.

On July 19, 2013, a worker at the company’s aggregate pit located at S895 Durham Regional Road 13 in Sunderland was trying to remove a blockage in a hopper. The aggregate pit is a mine as defined under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The worker was attempting to clear a blockage consisting of some oversized gravel that had become lodged in the lower section of an 80-ton capacity hopper.

After unsuccessfully using a pry bar to clear the blockage from the outside of the hopper, the worker was lowered into the hopper inside the bucket of an excavator. The worker exited the bucket and stood on top of the material in the hopper; at this time, the conveyor belt that took material away from the hopper was shut off. While inside the hopper the worker managed to poke a hole which allowed some material to fall through, which then filled up the belt; other workers were radioed to start the belt.

The starting of the conveyor belt released the blockage and sand and gravel material began to flow out of the bottom of the hopper. The release of the blockage caused part of the worker’s body to drop down the hole toward the conveyor and trapped the worker in the hopper. Workers were radioed to shut off the conveyor belt and the worker was extricated and taken to hospital.

The Ministry of Labour investigation found that the employer failed to ensure that, before a worker entered into any silo, bin, hopper or other container or structure containing bulk material, all further supply of material thereto was stopped and any removal of material therefrom prevented. This is contrary to Section 25(1)(c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

St. Marys Cement pleaded guilty to failing as an employer to ensure that measures and procedures prescribed by law were carried out in the workplace, and was fined $75,000 by His Honour Justice Joseph F. Kenkel in Newmarket court on April 20, 2015. 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.