On Monday, Bernard Huot and his son, owners of the Huot butcher’s shop in Lévis, were found guilty of criminal negligence causing injury. In November 2016, an 18-year-old employee, Olivier Bouchard, suffered serious injuries to his head and arm after falling into an industrial chopper, which should have closed when the cover was opened.
A rather rare judgment, according to Me Janie Pier Joyal, lawyer specializing in health and safety at Monette Barakett.
Only a dozen judgments in this area have been rendered in Canada. This is due to the difficulty of proving “a guilty intention in the demonstration of the offense by the Crown”, she illustrates.
“The first important decision that had been rendered in matters of criminal negligence was the Fournier case,” adds the lawyer.
In this case, the accused also faced charges of manslaughter and negligence causing death, and received a sentence of 18 months in prison. A very unlikely sentence in the case of the former owners of the butcher’s shop, according to Me Joyal. Salted almonds or community service are quite realistic. The maximum penalty for a criminal negligence charge is 10 years in prison.
The lawyer hopes that “the judgment will perhaps awaken some employers to the importance of occupational health and safety”.
CNESST also concludes breaches
The CNESST report on this incident could not be filed before the judgment so as not to interfere in a legal process. This was made public on Tuesday.
The CNESST report identified four causes to explain the tragedy, including “deficient management relating to the upkeep and maintenance of the chopper”.
The organization also believes that “the lack of training and supervision of the young and new worker meant that the latter was unaware of the proper functioning of the chopper and the dangers inherent in its use”.
“The bypassing of the chopper guard interlock system exposed the worker to moving parts” and the “work method applied to intervene inside the chopper hopper did not provide for any energy control measures”, concludes The report.
Following this incident, the use of two choppers was temporarily prohibited by the CNESST pending corrective action such as the establishment of a procedure to ensure the safety of the device on a daily basis, as well as the provision of training.
The choppers are functional again since the addition of these fixes by the company.