Following a 2012 episode in which a worker died after stealing a bottle of windshield washer fluid and drinking it over the course of two days — including on the job — the company that runs Ontario’s Beer Stores was fined $218,000 for what regulators deemed was a workplace safety violation.
“Brewers Retail Inc. pleaded guilty to failing to acquaint a worker with a hazard in the handling, storage or use of a liquid chemical agent,” read a Friday afternoon statement by the Ontario Ministry of Labour.
The employee in question, who was not named, worked for Brake Mobile Wash, a contractor charged with washing Beer Store delivery trucks.
On April 8, 2012, the man was washing trucks at the Beer Store’s Brampton, Ont., distribution centre when he and another employee discovered a 1.5 litre plastic vodka bottle filled with a light-blue liquid that investigators later determined was Ultra Clear-brand windshield washer fluid.
Found behind the seat of a truck, the still-labeled bottle was there due to a since-discontinued practice of Beer Store truck drivers taking empty liquor bottles and filling them with windshield washer fluid dispensed from a large vat.
The two men each took several swigs of the washer fluid before wrapping up their shift.
The one who passed away took the remainder of the bottle home
“The one who passed away took the remainder of the bottle home and over the next two days drank the remainder of the liquid,” said Matt Blajer, a spokesman with the Ontario Ministry of Labour.
The worker lated died in hospital of methanol poisoning while his coworker underwent dialysis treatment to clear his system after being warned by York Regional Police.
As Brewers Retail noted, the two employees were only tasked with cleaning the exterior of the trucks: There was no reason for them to have entered the cab of the vehicle where the bottle was stored.
In a statement of facts, the Ministry of Labour acknowledged that the workers had stolen the bottle. Nevertheless, Tuesday’s judgement declared that their “unauthorized possession” of the poison did not negate the “negligent actions,” of Brewers Retail.
Brewers Retail did not fight the charge and pled guilty when the case came up for Occupational Health and Safety review. “We do accept the court’s ruling on this issue and our most sincere condolences go out to the loved ones of the deceased,” said Ted Moroz, president of Brewers Retail.
He added that in the wake of the incident, Brewer’s Retail hired a third-party auditor to scour all of the company’s six distribution centres and “ensure there are no other opportunities for this type of error.”
The company’s last major Occupational Health and Safety violation was a $50,000 fine for a 2009 incident in which a forklift operator in Stoney Creek, Ont., jostled a storage rack, causing several cases of beer to fall to the ground.
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