Halifax site where crane collapsed had history of safety violations, but no fines or penalties

The site of the crane that collapsed during Hurricane Dorian last year had a history of health and safety violations, but was never fined or penalized for any of them.

The contractor working on the Brenton Street development was cited at least four times for violations and workplace injuries between January and September 2019, including one formal warning and three compliance orders.

But the Department of Labour’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) division never issued an administrative penalty to Lead Structural Formwork Ltd., which owned the tower crane the came down in high winds on Sept. 7, 2019.

“The compliance history of a work site is definitely a huge factor that goes into determining, you know, the next steps when it comes to enforcement,” said Scott Nauss, senior director of inspection and compliance for the OHS Division.

“And you know I can’t really speak to past compliance history at that site, given the situation.”

The safety violations, described on workplace inspection reports, were part of a 582-page package obtained by Global News under Freedom of Information laws. They are unrelated to the crane’s eventual collapse, but raise questions about OHS enforcement in the province.

Lead Structural Formwork did not respond to requests for comment by phone or email on Monday.

W.M. Fares group is the developer on the site. In an emailed statement, company vice president Maurice Fares said, “Lead (Structural) Formwork is one of the premier formwork contractors in the city of Halifax. All of our contractors, including (Lead), maintain the highest safety standards on a daily basis on our job site.”

The first safety issues on record are marked in a provincial hazard assessment of the crane site completed on Feb. 1, 2019. Sixteen safety risks classified as “severe” and “moderate” are identified, including a risk of falling from height.

One month later, one of Lead’s worker’s was injured while using the crane, as a load of metal formwork jacks came loose and started to fall from a height of more than eight feet. People on site called 911, but the nature of the worker’s injuries were redacted from documents.

An OHS officer issued Lead’s first compliance order on April 2 — an order to ensure all staff who rig a load are trained in the proper procedures.

Two weeks later, another of Lead’s workers was injured in a fall, prompting another inspection on April 29 and a second compliance order. In this case, the documents show that Lead was warned for failing to report the incident to the Department of Labour “immediately or within 24 hours,” as required by law.

While the OHS officer was on the worksite investigating the fall, he also observed a worker lifting and placing plywood on a bracket scaffold while on a whaler, with insufficient clearance for his feet.  That employee “proceeded to cross the whaler approximately 1.4 metres above vertical rebar.”

This incident resulted in another compliance order issued on May 1 to create fall protection safe work plan.

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