Highline pleads guilty after worker critically injured in accident

Highline Mushroom Farm. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette Staff)

JASON PARKS

STAFF WRITER

A Prince Edward County business plead guilty in Picton’s Provincial Offences court Friday to violating Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act and fined $90,000 after a worker suffered multiple critical injuries in September, 2018.

Highline Produce Limited, a business that grows and sells mushrooms and has a production facility at 339 Conley Road just outside of Wellington, entered a guilty plea before Justice Ernie Parsons Friday.

According to a Ministry of Labour news release issued late Monday afternoon, on Sept. 20, 2018, a worker suffered critical injuries after being caught and dragged into a conveyor.

The worker was working as part of the clean-up crew in the mushroom-growing facility’s spawn area and was washing down the concrete ramp to the spawn area’s overhead door The worker was called over to work on cleaning up the compost which had been knocked off the green feed hopper onto the concrete pad below.

The green feed conveyor is located outside the spawn area buildings  and the equipment feeds the green compost up into the spawn area for production. It is an angled conveyor and hopper, which consists of chain-driven cross bars and a fixed flat pan conveyor. The bars move up the flat pan, dragging material to the top.

The worker began to assist the lead hand by cleaning the compost from under and around the conveyor which was stationary at the time. While this work was being performed, the lead hand went to the control panel, removed the lock and started the conveyor, which began to move.

The worker started to walk in front of the conveyor, slipped on some wet compost on the ground and fell. The worker reached out and grabbed one of the conveyor bars to try to stop the fall. In so doing, the worker was caught in the bars of the moving conveyor, and was being dragged up and into the conveyor. No guards were in place to prevent the worker from being pulled into the moving conveyor.

As a result of being caught and dragged, the worker suffered multiple critical injuries.

  • Section 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act states that “an employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker at a workplace.”
  • The Court found Highline failed to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that the green feed conveyor/hopper was locked out while it and the area around it were being cleaned, contrary to section 25(2)(h) of the act. This is an offence pursuant to section 66(1) of the act.

The court also 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.