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Family of teen killed in underpinning job calls for more regulation

Last Updated May 2, 2016 at 6:47 pm EDT

In an urban city like Toronto, there are often two ways to get more living space: Build up or dig down.

And while there are a number of safety initiatives and requirements for height safety, there is nothing comparable for the job known as underpinning. The structurally-fragile job of digging out basements for more head room is a lucrative and popular occupation in Toronto.

But one devastated family fears the people doing the jobs aren’t being properly regulated.

In September 2014, 19-year-old Ryan Pearce landed his first job with a construction company after answering an ad on Kijiji.

He applied online on a Friday, and they told him to show up at the site to start work for Monday.

“I was skeptical,” says Marty Rochaleau, Pearce’s stepfather. “Who hires a 19-year-old kid with no background check?”

Three weeks later, Pearce was killed during an underpinning job on Brookdale Avenue, near Yonge Street and Lawrence Avenue, when a house collapsed on top of him.

Now Rochaleau and Colleen Pearce, Pearce’s mom, are calling for regulations and training for underpinning.

“If there’s training for fall-resistant, why isn’t there training for underpinning?” Rochaleau asks. “An employee can fall off a roof, or the roof can fall down on him. Where’s the training?”

The Ministry of Labour is currently working with the City of Toronto to examine issues of construction safety with a goal of finding ways to prevent tragedies like this.

The construction company who hired Pearce, Euro Group of Oakville, has been charged with safety violations.

The hearing will be held in August.