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Contractor Jailed in Paralyzing Fall

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

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A supervisor for an Ontario contractor has been sentenced to 45 days in jail and her company fined $75,000 for a fall that left an employee paralyzed.

A second company representative has also been fined $2,000 for obstructing a government investigation of the accident.

J.R. Contracting Property Services Ltd., a garbage removal and hauling company, and supervisor Teisha (Tina) Lootawan were found guilty last year of failing to ensure the safety of employee Garnett Stiff. Stiff was 28 years old when he slipped off the roof of a single-story home Oct. 15, 2008, and landed on the walkway.

NAHB Residential Fall Protection

In the United States, home builders and trade contractors must comply fully with OSHA's Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction.

Stiff's spinal cord burst, and he has been paralyzed below the waist since then.

"It's hard to put into words," Stiff said in one sworn statement. "Every day I wake up hoping that it's a dream. So you just kind of replay that fall off the roof over and over and over again in your head."

Employee Status Challenged

The house where the accident occurred was being reroofed, and Stiff had been tossing loose shingles off the roof for disposal. He was not wearing fall protection.

A key issue in the case was whether Stiff was an employee of the company or an independent contractor or subcontractor.

Stiff testified in court that he had believed he was an employee, although he worked on an as-needed basis. He said he had been paid in cash by Lootawan at the J.R. Contracting office. He also said that Lootawan had personally sent him on out on that job, and that he had been given a ride to the job in a J.R. Contracting truck.

OHSA manual

Carswell's so-called "Green Book" contains Canada's complete and current OH&S Act and regulations.

Stiff also testified that neither he nor his co-worker on the roof had been equipped with a harness or hardhat, that neither man had been trained in the use of fall protection, and that he had never used it.

Stiff also said that he had drunk three beers that morning before he arrived at the job.

Testimony and Obstruction

The Ontario Court of Justice heard seven days of testimony in the case in 2011 and 2012. On April 18, 2013, Justice of the Peace Mary A. Ross Hendriks determined that Stiff was an employee under the definition of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), and that J.R. Contracting Property Services was his employer.

The court also determined that Lootawan was a supervisor under the OHSA and had failed in her legal responsibility to provide fall protection and ensure that the employee wore the safety gear.

In addition, the court found Andrew Joshua Haniff guilty of obstructing a government inspector in the case and fined him $2,000.

As part of its investigation, the Ministry of Labour requested employment, telephone and other records from J.R. Contracting. Haniff, who took the initial call from the homeowner requesting service, attended a meeting with inspectors two months after the accident but refused to answer questions.

Hendriks announced sentencing in the case earlier this month.

In addition to the fines against the company and Haniff, the court imposed a 25 percent 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.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Enforcement; Fall protection; Health and safety; Laws and litigation; Residential Construction

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