Construction Contractor Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison for the Death of an Employee!

Published by our Labour and Employment Law team.

On March 2, 2018 we discussed a judgment rendered by the Court of Québec which found construction contractor Sylvain Fournier guilty of manslaughter following the death of one of his employees1. On September 18, Mr. Fournier learned his sentence: 18 months in prison!

On April 2, 2012 in Lachine, an employee of construction company Excavation S. Fournier Inc. died after being buried alive in a trench. He had been working, at his employer’s request, in the deepest part of the trench, at a depth of 2.6 metres.

On September 18, 2018 the criminal and penal division of the Court of Québec sentenced his employer to 18 months imprisonment, a never-before seen sentence of such magnitude in matters of criminal negligence related to occupational health and safety. More details on the reasoning behind the sentence will emerge when the judgment is made public.

This judgment sends a clear message to construction contractors and all other employers in Quebec, to the effect that occupational health and safety should be one of their paramount concerns. It is now more important than ever that employers scrupulously respect their OHS obligations, particularly their duty to foresee and prevent (safe planning of work), their duty of effectiveness (concrete and effective implementation of planned measures) and their duty of authority (imposition of disciplinary sanctions on recalcitrant employees).

In this regard, you should not hesitate to consult a legal advisor specialized in OHS matters. Compliance with standards and obligations imposed by statutes, regulations and codes, drafting appropriate prevention plans and policies, proper training of employees and the imposition of fair and effective disciplinary measures should be central concerns of every employer.

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