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A private company is facing criminal charges over an incident that caused the death of a CUPE member. 

Millennium Crane Rentals Ltd., the crane operator and the crane owner each face charges of criminal negligence causing death. They are scheduled to be in court in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, November 30 and December 6.

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, this is one of just four cases in which a company has been charged under the Criminal Code since Bill C-45 (criminal liability of organizations) became law in 2004.

The bill sets out rules on criminal liability for organizations and their representatives. It establishes that everyone with authority to direct another person’s work has a responsibility, within reason, to prevent bodily harm to those they direct.

We’re pleased to see the Sault Ste. Marie police and the Ministry of Labour have taken the time to thoroughly investigate the incident, and we’ll be paying close attention to this case,” said CUPE National President Paul Moist.

We’re hopeful that regardless of the outcome, employers will get the message that all levels of management bear a responsibility in making sure workers are protected on the jobsite, so that we can avoid terrible tragedies like this.”

The criminal charges stem from the April 16, 2009 death of municipal worker James Vecchio, who was crushed when a crane fell into an excavated hole he was working in at the Fifth Line Landfill.

Reports in the Sault Star suggest that the crane, which was loading concrete into the hole where Vecchio and another municipal employee were doing sewer work, was repositioning and backed up too far, falling into the hole and pinning Vecchio.

Vecchio, a 34-year old father of two, was rushed to hospital after firefighters extracted him, but he was pronounced dead at the hospital. The other worker was unharmed.

Millennium Crane Rentals, who were under contract with the city, also faces five charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act related to the condition of the crane and the qualifications of the operator. A court date for those charges is set for January 10, 2011.