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Worker crushed by a potato hopper assembly in 2013

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner



The 2013 death of a migrant farm worker has resulted in an $82,500 fine for a potato farm southwest of Barrie.

RJM Farms in Egbert plead guilty in a Barrie court Tuesday to failing as an employer to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker, said Ontario's Labour Ministry.

The worker was crushed by a potato hopper assembly on May 27, 2013.

Justice of the Peace Dennis A. Wilson imposed a 25% 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.

On that day, several workers were running the seed potato cutting line on RJM Farms, located at 5980 5th Side Road in Egbert. The workers were required to remove a conveyor from the line and replace it with a potato hopper used to process seed potatoes.

However, the workers realized that the hopper was not high enough to reach the conveyor.

The workers used bottle jacks to raise the container-frame assembly. One worker stayed near the middle with a level to make sure it was being raised evenly; the other workers extended the bottle jacks to raise the assembly.

A worker was situated under part of the jacked-up load to gain access to the bottle jack, when the assembly suddenly fell. The worker was crushed between the frame of the potato hopper and the axle and died immediately.

A subsequent Labour Ministry investigation found the hopper container-frame assembly was raised beyond the height of the anchor posts of the wheel-and-axle assembly.

In addition, the hopper's wheels were not chocked, nor was the elevated hopper container frame assembly blocked securely and solidly to prevent it from accidentally falling.

While elevated, the wheel-and-axle assembly was vulnerable to rolling away from the hopper, causing the bottle jack to overturn in the opposite direction.

It was the first time the worker had performed the task of adjusting the hopper, the ministry said.