Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

WSO must pay fine for worker's injury

Union stagehand fell more than three metres to floor

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The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra has faced the music and must now pay the piper for its role in a workplace accident that saw a Winnipeg stagehand hurt in a nasty fall.

The non-profit was ordered to pay $5,000 in fines and victim surcharges after pleading guilty Thursday to a Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health Act infraction.

A 24-year-old union stagehand working at the Centennial Concert Hall on Feb. 3, 2012, fell through an "unguarded opening" in a dimly lit area below the stage known as "the crossover," provincial court Judge Brent Stewart was told.

He dropped more than three metres to a "concrete abyss" below, screaming on the way down, prosecutors said.

When the worker hit the floor, "he heard the sound of running water, which he soon realized was blood coming from his face," court heard.

The victim didn't lose consciousness but was left with a broken wrist, four fractured fingers and multiple fractures to his face.

He was rushed to hospital, underwent two operations and wasn't discharged until 11 days later.

The victim has made a mostly full recovery except for an ache in his left hand when he does repetitive work.

"Looking at (him), amazingly, one would otherwise not notice that he was involved in such a serious fall," Crown attorney Tim Chudy said.

The backdrop to the incident was a hectic changeover of different shows being staged at the concert hall.

The WSO's final New Music Festival was being torn down. The next day, the first staging of Beauty and the Beast was to happen.

The victim was employed by the IATSA Local 63 union, which supplies labour for the concert hall.

A longtime WSO supervisor initially put him to work cleaning up chairs and stacking music stands. Around 11:30 p.m., however, a concert hall stage manager approached and asked the victim and a colleague to assist a colleague in fetching a "huge, thick" 91-metre audio cable from the crossover beneath the mainstage, Stewart heard.

One side of the area is a concrete wall while the other was partly open and without a guardrail protecting people from a drop to the floor below. Lights were put on, but it was still "dim at best" in the area.

When the victim reached out to pull back a black curtain to let in more light, he stepped in the area of the unguarded opening and fell, Stewart heard.

He'd never been in the crossover section before and so had no idea to watch out for the hazard -- nor was he told about the unguarded opening, Chudy said.

It was a compounding of several factors influencing the accident, court heard.

"Improper guardrail protection, inadequate lighting, inadequate information... and the absence of proper supervision all contributed to the incident, which was clearly preventable," said Chudy.

Lawyer Bernice Bowley, acting for the WSO, made it clear the orchestra doesn't own or control the concert hall facility, which it had rented out. As well, she said, it had no control over the labour used, as the hall is contractually obligated to use IATSE workers.

Despite the WSO's "detached position" from the mishap, it has taken steps to prevent anything similar from happening in the future, said the lawyer.

"There's a guardrail now," Chudy told Stewart.

"And better lighting," added Bowley.

Workplace-safety charges against IATSE and the Manitoba Centennial Centre Corp. remain before the courts.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 11, 2014 A9

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