Pressure Washer Injures Farm Worker, Company Fined $55K

BRANTFORD, ON – Operators of a pig farming facility in Nanticoke pleaded guilty and were fined $55,000 after a worker was injured with a portable washer spray gun.

Great Lakes Pork Inc. and Ontario Management Group Inc. form a registered partnership called Paragon Farms. It operates the swine breeding and farrowing operation at 636 Concession 4, Nanticoke.

On December 15, 2015 an employee of Paragon was injured while cleaning a stall using a portable washer spray gun supplied and owned by Paragon. The incident occurred when the worker tripped while stepping into a stall. The worker stumbled, dropped the gun and the pressurized water sprayed into the worker’s face. The worker was taken to hospital for emergency treatment and suffered a permanent injury as a result of the incident.

The trigger, or operating mechanism of the gun, which delivered water at an estimated pressure of 2,000 to 2,300 psi, was held in an “open” position by a loosely connected plastic zip tie, which is not standard equipment for the device.

Court was told that at the time of the incident, Paragon had in place both a personal protective equipment policy and a pressure washer safety policy. Both policies direct that when pressure washing duties are being performed, safety glasses or a face shield must be worn; workers are directed to never wire, tape or strap the trigger or wand of a washer spray gun. Workers had been trained on the contents of those policies. Paragon also held periodic health and safety meetings, the last one being about four months prior to the incident.

Safety glasses were made available by Paragon and other employees did wear protective safety glasses for various tasks in the barn. However, some employees shunned the safety glasses when power washing was being done because the glasses tended to fog up. The failure of some employees to wear the glasses was known to Paragon management and, it was found that Paragon was not actively enforcing the policy, thus allowing the workers to ignore the safety directions regarding eye/face protection when performing pressure washing tasks.

Section 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act states that an employer must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of a worker.  By failing to ensure eyewear was worn, Great Lakes Pork Inc. and Ontario Management Group Inc. violated section 25(2)(h) of the act.

Immediately following the incident, Paragon prohibited the use of zip ties on trigger assemblies and reduced water pressures to 1,800 psi. The best protection remains the use of safety glasses or shields. Paragon has investigated and introduced anti-fogging products and is enforcing its protective eye wear policy.

The company was fined $55,000 in Brantford court by Justice of the Peace Audrey Green Summers on May 24, 2017.

The court also imposed a 25-per-cent 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.

Ministry of Labour