$677,500 in fines levied on Ottawa builder, subcontractor and two site supervisors for icy 2016 construction death

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Ottawa Construction News staff writer

An Ottawa builder, forming sub-contractor, and two site supervisors have pled guilty of health and safety violations and were fined a total of $677,500 for.during late May court hearing.

The charges relate to the March, 2016 death of 25-year-old Olivier Bruneau, who was struck by a large piece of ice while working in an excavation near the start of construction of the 46-storey condominium tower.

The project, at 505 Preston St., “included one of the deepest building basement excavations to be carried out in Canada and involved the digging of a 30-metre-deep excavation” for the nine-story underground garage,” Ontario’s labour ministry said in a news release. “Claridge Homes was the constructor and Bellai Brothers performed the structural concrete work for the building, including the footings and concrete walls. Another company was contracted to dig the excavation.”

The statement continued:

  • “At the time of the incident, when temperatures were cold, ice could form on the excavation walls. These accumulations could result in large, vertical formations. Without warning, pieces of ice could detach from the walls and fall to the bottom of the excavation; the pieces could be heavy.
  • “Another company was hired to power wash the ice away using hot water from pump trucks. Workers standing on a platform were lifted by a crane to access the wall where they would power wash the ice. Bellai Brothers was also periodically involved in efforts to remove the ice using its crane to knock ice from the walls. Another subtrade periodically used an excavator to scrape the ice from the much lower portions of the walls. Ice would quickly re-form on the south wall when the weather was cold.
  • “Metal netting and tarps were hung approximately four metres down near the top of the south excavation wall face.
  • “On Feb. 4, a worker and safety representative for Bellai Brothers was struck in the back by falling ice from the south wall. The worker was not seriously injured and the incident was reported to the Ministry of Labour the next day; an inspector attended that same day. The inspector observed equipment used to remove ice with pressurized hot water and issued no work orders related to ice removal, concluding that sufficient precautions were being taken.
  • “A fence was erected along the south wall. Workers were frequently warned to watch out for the ice, and to stay clear of the south wall. No safe distance was specified beyond the existence of the snow fence placed at 15 feet (4.5 metres) from the wall.
  • “On March 21 and 22, the excavated rock pile in front of the south wall was removed. The snow fence was not re-erected.
  • “On March 23, a worker went into the excavation to begin preparing for a new footing.
  • “Shortly after, the worker was struck by a large piece of ice estimated to be 4 metres in length and 56 kilograms in weight. The worker was about approximately 6.2 metres (over 20 feet) from the south wall when struck. The ice fell from a location near the top of the south wall, but below the metal netting and tarps.
  • “Emergency workers arrived and an excavator operator used the equipment to shield the paramedics from the potential hazard of falling ice. The worker succumbed to the injuries.
  • “On March 21 and 22, and at the time of the event, there were several large ice formations that had developed on the south wall. After the site was cleared, another large piece of ice fell at the same location.”
  • The defendants failed to ensure that a wall of an excavation was stripped of loose ice that that may slide, roll or fall upon a worker, contrary to section 232(1) of Ontario Regulation 213/91, the Construction Projects Regulation.

Following guilty pleas, Judge Robert Wadden fined Claridge Homes and Bellai Brothers each $325,000 and Claridge superintendent Leo Simard $15,000 and Bellai Brothers superintendent $12,500.  As well the court imposed a 25 per cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act.

Bellai Brothers president Pietro Bellai, keeps the of Bruno photograph on his desk, The Ottawa Citizen reported

“I look at it every day … I promise you I will never forget him,” Bellai told court after his company pleaded guilty to unsafe labour practices under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.” The company has since pledged safety first and says it no longer sends its workers down into unsafe excavation pits.

Bruno’s relatives and wife gave victim impact statements outlining their grief and loss.

The defendants have not not charged criminally, after the Ottawa Crown Attorney’s Office reviewed the case more than once.. However, a coroner’s inquest is planned

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