TORONTO—Ontario food manufacturer Fiera Foods Co. has taken responsibility for the death of a 23-year-old temporary worker who was killed in an accident in Toronto last year.
As part of a settlement deal with the province, the industrial bakery has pleaded guilty to violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act and agreed to pay a $300,000 fine.
The incident took place last September at the company’s plant on Marmora Street in North York.
According to the Ministry of Labour, Amina Diaby died when her hijab became entangled in a guard covering the chain drive of a conveyor. The province had initially laid charges against the company as well as one of the plant’s supervisors for a lack of guarding on the equipment and for failing to ensure no loose clothing was worn near the entanglement hazard.
It dropped the improper guarding charges as well as the charges against the supervisor as part of the plea deal.
“We have always tried to provide the best working environment for our workers but we are committed to doing better for them and we absolutely will,” David Gelbloom, general counsel for Fiera Foods, said in a statement. “The death of Amina Diaby was a tragedy that should not have happened.”
The company has undertaken a pair of independent health and safety audits Gelbloom says will prevent “such a tragedy from happening again.” Along with the $300,000 fine, Fiera Foods will pay a 25 per cent victim surcharge that goes toward a government fund to assist victims of crime—standard procedure for workplace fines.
Diaby, a refugee from Guinea, had worked at the plant for just two weeks at the time of the incident. She is the third worker to have been killed at the Toronto food plant.
While Fiera Foods says it has redoubled its commitment to health and safety, the Ontario Federation of Labour said the company and other employers must do better.
“The $300,000 fine is a paltry amount considering the record of this employer,” Chris Buckley, president of the OFL, said in a statement. “If the Ministry of Labour is not prepared to hold this company and their senior executives fully accountable, we hope the police have enough evidence to lay criminal charges. This blatant disregard for the health and safety of workers will not be tolerated.”
Though the plea bargain, announced in court last week, brings an end to the Ministry of Labour investigation, the OFL said it has confirmed a Toronto Police investigation is still ongoing.
Further reading: The Toronto Star recently published an undercover investigation of working conditions inside the large Toronto bakery.