A director with Ontario's Ministry of Labour defended its handling of reports of falling ice at an Ottawa construction site where a worker died in 2016.
The director spoke Wednesday as the inquest resumed into Olivier Bruneau's March 2016 death at the excavation site for the Claridge Icon condo in Ottawa's Little Italy.
Malcolm McKay was one of the first witnesses the inquest heard from and he returned for re-examination. At the time of Bruneau's death, he was the ministry's district manager for Ottawa.
McKay said the ministry inspector acted properly in not issuing a ministry order after a piece of ice fell and injured another worker in February 2016.
In earlier testimony, inspector Brent Tureski was emotional when he told the inquest he wished he'd issued a stop work order.
McKay said the inspector did the right thing based on the understanding the construction company was already implementing measures to reduce the ice.
"It would have not been correct to issue an order. There would've been no impact. What would've resulted, would've been what was already happening," McKay told the inquest.
He said, even if an order was issued, it would not have resulted in a follow-up. That work stopped the same month Bruneau was killed.
Different order possible
McKay also pushed back against a suggestion from Bruneau's father Christian, who believes there should have been fines or another penalty because the ice had built up in February 2016.
McKay said the ministry addresses complaints and non-compliance at construction sites on a continuum — where construction firms and workers on-site are expected to work together to manage risks through internal procedures.
"It's not like a light switch. It's not on or off," McKay said. "It's not either perfectly safe or it's unsafe. It's just not like that."
McKay said some testimony from Claridge and its subcontractors Taggart and Bellai has been "eye-opening," especially in how the on-site work was managed.
Specifically, he reacted to how a supervisor didn't know Taggart was working on the site when it removed a debris wall that functioned as a barrier from the ice-covered south wall of the excavation site.
"How can you protect the safety of workers you don't even know are on the job?" McKay said.
McKay said the ministry could have issued orders based on rules regarding the competency or absence of supervisors if it had known about that.
His testimony was lukewarm on proposals for more investigation of non-fatal incidents and the development of construction safety plans as part of the municipal approval process.
McKay noted all those proposals could create an overwhelming amount of information for the ministry, or result in onerous processes for construction companies, municipalities and the ministry.
As for enforcement, McKay said the subsequent investigation and successful convictions in the wake of Bruneau's death as evidence of a functioning system.
"Had the regulations been adhered to, we wouldn't be here today," McKay said.