“Sun-Brite officials had pled guilty to charges that it violated provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the Provincial Offences Court issued the fine,” William Lin, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Labour, told FoodProductionDaily.
“The Court also levied a 25% victim fine surcharge, as required by the Provincial Offences Act,” Lin said. “The surcharge is collected by the municipality in which the injury occurred, and put into a provincial government fund for crime victims.”
The charges stemmed from a September 5, 2013, incident in which a seasonal farm worker from Mexico was critically injured while cleaning the peeler room of Sun-Brite’s processing facility in Ruthven, Ontario.
Ministry of Labour officials said the room contains tomato-peeling machines, each of which has a waste chute connected to a trough. A power screw auger pushes waste material through the trough.
The worker was cleaning around one of the machines and tried to step over the waste trough, but his foot slipped. It became caught in the auger and was severely injured, requiring partial amputation.
“A Ministry of Labour investigation found that the peeler machine involved in the incident had been installed just two weeks prior,” officials said. “While steel mesh guards were affixed over the waste troughs of the other three machines, no guard had yet been installed on the newest machine; as such, the auger was fully exposed.”
‘In-running nip hazard’
The auger was considered “an in-running nip hazard which created a pinch point between the auger and the side of the trough,” officials said. Ontario’s Industrial Establishments Regulation requires that “an in-running nip hazard or any part of a machine, device or thing that may endanger the safety of any worker must be equipped with and guarded by a guard or other device that prevents access to the pinch point.”
The Ministry charged Sun-Brite with failing to ensure that the measures and procedures prescribed by the regulation were followed.
Both the $70,000 fine and the additional 25% victim fine surcharge are issued by the provincial government and are separate from any other remediation activities, Lin said. Direct compensation for the injured worker would be handled by the Workplace Safety Insurance Board.
As for corrective action at Sun-Brite’s processing facility, Lin said, “Following a serious workplace injury, we [the Ministry of Labour] send in an inspector who can issue orders to resolve the safety violations.”