Toronto company faced years of safety complaints before swing stage collapse

Originally Published by Toronto Sun
Author: Jenny Yuen

The Toronto window cleaning company behind a swing stage that recently collapsed from a midtown office tower — leaving at least one worker dangling some 25 storeys above — had multiple complaints about the safety of its fall protection system since 2016.

Toronto Police say the call came in around 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 24 about two men who were finishing their window washing duties of 2180 Yonge St., near Eglinton Ave., when their swing station came loose and fell to the ground.

According to data from the Ministry of Labour, obtained by the Toronto Sun, there were three complaints, three years in a row, issued against Scarborough-based Solar Window Cleaning for concerns about safety regarding the fall protection system.

The first was on Nov. 29, 2016, at 438 Bay St., where the MOL issued two orders — for the company to develop a plan for the safety of workers and a stop work order until that was completed.

The ministry said the work plan was completed and as a result, the stop work order was withdrawn.

List of complaints made to the Ministry of Labour involving Solar Window Cleaning. PHOTO BY SCREENGRAB /MINISTRY OF LABOUR

The second complaint took place on July 25, 2017, at 375 University Ave., according to MOL documents, where there were “concerns workers were on the roof of the property without fall protection.”

In that case, no orders were issued by the ministry.

On Jan. 11, 2018, workers at a job site at 2 Queen St. E. also complained of feeling unsafe due to not being “protected by a method of fall protection.” The ministry did not issue any requirements in that case.

According to the ministry, Solar Window Cleaning was convicted on Feb. 7 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to ensure a piece of equipment wasn’t within three metres from an energized outdoor overhead electrical conductor in the range of 750 to 150,000 volts at a Vaughan workplace.

The company had to pay a $45,000 fine plus a victim fine surcharge.

In June 2019, the ministry conducted a proactive inspection of a Solar Window Cleaning work site at 2000 Argentia Rd. in Mississauga where two orders were made to the company — to notify the ministry of a window cleaning project and that a “lifeline used in a fall arrest system shall be suspended separately and independently from any suspended scaffold, boatswain’s chair or similar single-point suspension equipment.”

The MOL said the company complied with both orders.

The MOL said the Sept. 24 swing stage collapse investigation is ongoing. However, on Sept. 29, one of their inspectors completed a field visit of the site.

“One requirement was issued to the employer, Solar Window Cleaning,” said a ministry spokesperson, adding he couldn’t provide more details on the issued requirement in the midst of the investigation.

Köteles Andras, who was among the pair of stranded window washers at Solar Window Cleaning, wrote about an alleged mechanical failure in the equipment in a public Facebook post where he claimed the cable clamp was not properly secured on the cable and that contributed to the 32-foot swing stage falling.

None of the allegations have been proven.

Requests for comment to Solar Window Cleaning’s CEO Roger Stanley and President Neal Dance were not returned Thursday.

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