R v. Metron, the Saga Continues
The case of R. v. Metron has attracted the widespread attention of Canadian employers and employees alike. As we have previously described, this case relates to a tragic accident that occurred on December 24, 2009, when four workers fell 14 floors after a swing stage they were using to return to the ground collapsed. There were six workers on the swing stage, despite the fact that there were only two life lines available.
Ultimately, Metron was fined $750,000.00 under Ontario occupational health and safety legislation, one of the highest ever OHS fines in Canada at the time. However, this fine did not end the matter.
Criminal charges were brought against Vadim Kazenelson, a project manager for Metron. At the time of the incident Kazenelson was the supervisor on site responsible for ensuring that the workers were following proper safety procedures. Kazenelson not only allowed the deceased workers to use the swing stage without proper fall protection, he joined them in doing so. He was able to escape injury by clinging to a nearby balcony railing.
Subsequent testing revealed that Kazenelson, along with some of the deceased workers, had recently used marijuana.
In June 2015, Kazenelson was found guilty of four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily injury. Early in January 2016, he was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison. According to media reports, Kazenelson intends to appeal this sentence and is seeking bail pending the appeal. However, it appears that, regardless of any appeal, he will spend some time in jail.
This is a landmark decision. It is the first time in Canada that a supervisor has been sentenced to jail since that punishment became a possibility in 2004, when Bill C–45 was passed introducing offences into the Criminal Code of Canada relating to failure to take reasonable care for the safety of workers.
During the sentencing hearing, the Court noted that Kazenelson had no prior record, appeared to be sincerely remorseful and, in fact, had a reputation for terminating workers who did not follow safety rules. However, the sentence was intended to convey a strong message in order to deter others from committing similar offences.
While it remains to be seen if the sentence will be reduced (or increased) on appeal, we can be assured that prosecutors across the country will look to this case to support imposing further jail sentences in appropriate circumstances. Obviously employers, supervisors, and others who are responsible for employee safety need to take note and beware.