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Construction foreman cleared of criminal charge in fatal workplace accident by Nova Scotia court

by HR Law Canada

A construction site foreman has been acquitted of criminal negligence causing death in a 2018 workplace accident by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.

The incident, which occurred at the Kent Building Supply store construction site in Dartmouth, N.S., has been under scrutiny since the worker’s fall from an 18-foot canopy while installing a weatherproofing membrane known as “blueskin.” The Crown had contended that the foreman’s supervision was criminally negligent, leading to the fatal accident.

However, after a thorough review of the evidence, including testimony from various witnesses and expert opinions, the court found substantial doubt in the foreman’s culpability. The ruling highlighted several key factors:

Worksite safety practices: There was no specific regulation under Nova Scotia’s Occupational Health & Safety Act mandating tie-off protocols when working close to leading edges. The court noted the variability in safety practices across different sites and crews.

The victim’s state: Testimonies from toxicologists suggested that the worker who fell was likely impaired due to marijuana use at the time of the accident, a factor that significantly contributed to the incident.

Industry standards and practices: Evidence showed that the safety measures on the worksite were not markedly different from those on similar sites, making it difficult to establish a “marked and substantial departure” from reasonable conduct expected of a foreman.

After-the-fact conduct: The court did not find the foreman’s post-incident conduct and statements to the police and Occupational Health & Safety officers indicative of guilt.

For more information, see R. v. Gooch, 2024 NSSC 4 (CanLII)

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