Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine (August 2014)
The death of a pipelayer in a trench two years ago is under review by the RCMP, following an investigation by WorkSafeBC.
“We just got the file,” says John Buis, staff sergeant major with the RCMP’s Burnaby detachment. “We are reviewing it to see if there are any allegations of criminality.”
Jeff Caron, 28, an employee of Surrey-based J. Cote & Son Excavating Ltd., was helping to replace sewer lines in a 1.2-meter-deep excavation for the city of Burnaby on October 11, 2012, when a concrete wall cracked in two, fell onto him and pinned him against the bank of the trench. Caron was killed, while a second trench worker, Thomas Richer, was seriously injured.
WorkSafeBC’s investigation report released December 2013, concludes that insufficient training, lack of hazard recognition, poor hazard communication and a weak safety-management system contributed to the incident. As well, the pipe crew’s foreman, David Green, ignored Richer’s warnings that the worksite’s conditions were dangerous.
“J. Cote crew excavated directly adjacent to the concrete wall,” the report notes in its conclusions about the cause of the accident. “The removal of the soil mass in front of the concrete wall caused it to become unstable and fall, by allowing it to move outward and overturn.”
To date, WorkSafeBC has not imposed administrative penalties for the incident. But the agency issued six orders to J. Cote, three to the city of Burnaby and to the engineering company Earthbitat Engineering. WorkSafeBC charges that J. Cote had not established a safety program and failed to recognize or address the hazards when a worker had reported them.
A letter that J. Cote’s lawyer, Jonathan Tweedale, sent to CBC News on May 06, 2014, says the excavation company is in the process of appealing WorkSafeBC’s conclusions. J. Cote claims that it dug the trench as Earthbitat had advised him. J. Cote is also suing the city of Burnaby for the additional costs and delay following the incident, according to court papers dated December 18, 2013.
Buis says criminal investigations of workplace fatalities by the RCMP are uncommon in Burnaby. “This is all relatively new to us, as we are getting this case from another provincial agency to review,” he notes. “We are taking a look at it, and as always, if there are any charges, it is brought forward to the Crown Counsel for review and an approval.”
The lawsuit, I believe, will not go anywhere. The employee reported an unsafe condition and it was totally ignored by the supervisor.
In Ontario, under section 27 of the Occupational health and Safety Act (OHSA) it states that all aspects of the OHSA and sector regulations must be enforced on the worksite.
Section 23 states that the Constructor is responsibility for all problems on the site.
As well, under section 43, the worker has the right refuse unsafe work. At least the worker representative of the Joint Health and Safety Committee, (JHSC) is to be called and determine if a dangerous circumstance is present as understood in section 44, subsection 1 of the OHSA. It states,
44 “dangerous circumstances” means a situation in which,
(a) a provision of this Act or the regulations is being contravened,
(b) the contravention poses a danger or a hazard to a worker, and
(c) the danger or hazard is such that any delay in controlling it may seriously endanger a worker.
HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259 We can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.