Chatham greenhouse gets $90K fine for industrial accident

A Chatham greenhouse where a young woman was critically injured in an industrial accident almost two years ago has been fined nearly $90,000 after pleading guilty to charges contrary to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Crown Attorney Judy Chan said Truly Green failed to provide information, instruction, and supervision to a worker and jeopardized the health and safety of the worker.

Natasha Smids of Chatham, now 22 years old, was seriously hurt at Truly Green on Bloomfield Road on January 6, 2020, while working as a part-time employee. Chan read a statement of claim in Provincial Offences Court in Blenheim, saying Smids and four co-workers were instructed to clean large tanks in the irrigation room where her hair and clothing got caught in a rotating shaft at the top of a tank. Chan said power to the rotating shaft was not locked out and the shaft was rotating while the cleaning was being done. She said, as a result, Smids suffered serious and permanent injuries, including paralysis below the waist, when she leaned over to clean the top of the tank and was pulled into the shaft.

“Miss Smids usually worked in the packhouse and never previously worked in the irrigation room,” said Chan. “She was not provided with any written instructions for the cleaning of the tanks and no specific procedures were in place or communicated to the workers for this task.”

The 2,500-gallon tanks provide liquid fertilizer to the tomato growing operation. The rotating shaft is connected to paddles inside the tanks that stir the fertilizer. Defence lawyer Andrew Murray agreed to the details in the statement of claim. Murray also said Truly Green has no prior convictions and pleaded guilty early.

Murray said Truly Green did not want to drag out the case for the benefit of everyone involved. “This company, they were very mindful of the benefit to their workforce, to this injured worker Natasha Smids, to the community, and to the court, and that a guilty plea would spare resources, time, emotional trauma, and, of course, the delay associated with a trial,” said Murray.

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