Category Archives: Young Workers

No criminal charges laid in co-op student’s death

The death of a 17-year-old co-op student at an auto-parts facility last September in the township of West Lincoln, Ontario has been deemed an accident with no criminal liability. No charges are being laid, following investigations by the Niagara Regional Police (NRP) and the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL).

Adam Keunen, a Grade 12 student at Beamsville District Secondary School in Beamsville, was in his first week at a co-op placement at Plazek Auto Recycler when he was hit and crushed by a front-end loader on the morning of Sept. 26. Both the NRP and the MOL sent investigators to the scene of the fatality immediately.

MOL media representative William Lin confirmed to COHSN that the ministry’s investigation had been completed as of March 24.

“I can confirm that no charges were laid in this incident,” Lin said, adding that criminal charges in such an incident were the police’s department. “What we do is, in general, reinforce the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Criminal charges are separate from that.”

The NRP did not respond to COHSN by press time, and Plazek had already stated that it would not be commenting to the media on the incident.

Despite the perceived lack of criminal responsibility in the fatality, Keunen’s death has resulted in public reaction leading to legislative change. Following the incident, the Canadian Intern Association (CIA) called for increased oh&s protection of unpaid work-integrated learning programs under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), the Employment Standards Act and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.

“The exclusion of co-op students from OHSA meant that it was the Niagara Regional Police that led the investigation into the workplace accident, rather than the Ministry of Labour, who normally investigates such incidents,” the CIA stated in a press release on Sept. 29. “These tragic incidents necessitate that the Ontario government undertake a fulsome review of co-ops, academic internships and experiential learning programs, to ensure the safety and well being of students and young workers is being protected.”

In November, the Government of Ontario revised OSHA to cover unpaid co-op students, as well as learners taking part in a work placement that a school board or post-secondary institution has approved.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety offers some advice on using tractors with front-end loaders around other employees safely:

  • Make sure all other workers keep away from the tractor when using the loader;
  • Keep the load as close to the ground as possible, to prevent the tractor from tipping if its rear lifts;
  • Operate the vehicle at low speeds;
  • Don’t go downhill with a loaded bucket;
  • Drive in a straight line when loading or raising the bucket to unload;
  • Before raising the bucket, get as close to the intended dump area as possible;
  • Never let anyone ride in the bucket or use it as a work platform;
  • Never stand or work under a raised loader, nor let anyone else walk under it; and
  • Never drive the tractor with a lifted load.

Agricultural Safety Week invites farm workers to “Be the Difference”

NATIONAL – The annual Canadian Agricultural Safety Week (CASW) is back this year, from March 15 to 21, courtesy of the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA). CASW is a yearly campaign to educate the public on the importance of farming safety; the theme for 2015, “Be the Difference”, is a call to Canada’s agricultural workers to become “farm safety champions” by making a positive difference to agricultural workplaces, according to a Feb. 20 press release from CASA. “We need to engage with all Canadians to make farms safer places to work and live,” said CASA executive director Marcel Hacault, as quoted in the release. “Healthcare providers, teachers, agri-business leaders, community members and farmers all play an important role in promoting farm safety.” CASW events across the country include interactive prevention workshops, school safety-themed days and a trade show, as well as a March 16 launch event in Charlottetown. More information is available at

Halifax company charged after workplace fatality

HALIFAX, N.S. — Occupational health and safety officers with Nova Scotia’s Department of Labour and Advanced Education charged a Halifax company on Feb. 18, in connection with the death of a 21-year-old worker. On Nov. 7, 2013, Alan Fraser was cleaning up on the sixth floor of a Clayton Park building under construction, when he fell from the edge, the department said in a press release. Parkland Construction was charged in relation to the lack of: fall protection for an employee who was working at an elevation of three metres or more; a safe work plan; fall protection training; and a chute or other safe method used to lower rubbish or debris. The press release said that a company supervisor had also been charged with failing to take every precaution to protect an employee’s health and the lack of fall protection at a height of three metres or more.

Death to worker spurs $100,000 fine

WATFORD, Ont. — A numbered company (1483322 Ontario Inc.) carrying on business as Signature Events Rental Shoppe was fined $100,000 on Feb. 3, in connection with the death of a worker. On Aug. 1, 2013, a crew of six workers — all seasonal workers under 25 years old — was sent to a property near Watford to set up a tent in advance of a wedding, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour (MOL) said in a press release. As one of the ten poles was being placed, it contacted an overhead electrical service line, which sent an electric current down to the ground, the release said, adding that the ground had been saturated by rainfall. Five of the six workers were injured by the initial shock; a second shock was delivered to some of the workers who were lying on the ground. One worker was electrocuted, and the others suffered burns and dislocations (COHSN, Aug. 12, 2013). An MOL investigation found that none of the workers had received any safety training, including training with respect to recognizing and mitigating site hazards such as overhead power lines. Furthermore, the company failed to ensure that materials were lifted or moved in such a way that they did not endanger the safety of a worker. Signature Events pleaded guilty to failing, as a constructor, to ensure that the health and safety of workers was protected. The company also pleaded guilty to failing, as an employer, to provide adequate information, instruction and supervision to workers about the hazards of overhead electrical wires, as required under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Federal labour minister holds video conference

OTTAWA, Ont. — Dr. Kellie Leitch, the federal Minister of Labour, held a video conference meeting on Jan. 29 with provincial and territorial ministers of labour to deepen intergovernmental engagement. A press release from Employment and Social Development Canada said that Dr. Leitch and her counterparts had focused their discussion on the protection of young workers. They exchanged best practices on raising awareness of young worker injury prevention, discussed the current state of unpaid interns in various jurisdictions and learned recent developments regarding technical reviews of the International Labour Organization’s Convention 138 on Minimum Age and the Protocol on Forced Labour. “Today’s meeting shows our collective commitment to collaborate on issues to improve workplaces in Canada and around the world,” Dr. Leitch said in the press release. “Meetings like this help governments to work together, to share best practices and to ensure that Canada’s workforce remains the best in the world.”