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Digsafe pleaded guilty; Hydro Ottawa fined $225,000 three years later

March 30, 2016 | By Anthony Capkun

March 30, 2016 – “Hydro Ottawa does not agree with the verdict or the penalty,” said the utility upon being found guilty and fined $225,000 following a trial after one worker was killed and two others suffered injuries back in March 2012.

“We firmly believe that we were duly diligent in evaluating and selecting qualified and experienced contractors, in alerting our contractors to the hazards of working near energized powerlines, and in enforcing the use of safe practices to protect worker safety,” the utility added.

In the March 2012 incident, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour reports a subcontractor’s workers were installing new hydro poles and wires under existing energized lines on Moodie Drive in Ottawa. Three workers were excavating a hole when the boom of a work vehicle came within 3 metres of a powerline that was located roughly 6 metres above the hole.

All three workers received electrical shocks, with one worker (Barry Robertson) succumbing to injuries in hospital.


“Hydro Ottawa remains deeply saddened by this tragedy,” said the utility, adding, “Safety is fundamental to how Hydro Ottawa does business. We are committed to preventing injuries and protecting the health & safety of our employees, contractors, subcontractors and members of the public.”

The other two workers sought medical attention at the hospital and did not suffer permanent physical injuries. An MoL investigation followed.

After a trial, Hydro Ottawa Ltd. (as a constructor) was found guilty of violating three sections of the Constructions Projects Regulation by failing:

• to ensure the boom of a vehicle was not brought within 3 m of an energized overhead conductor of 750 or more volts;
• to ensure a competent worker designated as a signaller was stationed so as to be in full view of an operator and had a clear view of the electrical conductor and of the vehicle, to warn the operator every time any part of the vehicle or other equipment may approach the minimum distance; and
• to take every reasonable precaution to prevent hazards to workers from energized electrical equipment, installation and conductors.

MoL adds the subcontractor (and co-defendant) in question—Digsafe Inc. of Ottawa—already pleaded guilty in relation to the incident back in November 2013, and was ordered to pay a fine of $125,000.

In both cases, in addition to the fine, the court imposed a 25% victim fine surcharge.

Hydro Ottawa, meantime, says it is “reviewing its options in regards to this matter”.

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