Blog Post #229 – $300,000 Fine Levied in Rock Crusher Death

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada Magazine

An Alberta construction company has been fined $300,000 for its failure to protect the health and safety of a 20- year-old employee who died after becoming entangled in the unguarded tail pulley of a rock crusher.

On December 13, 2004, at a site near Wainwright, Jahryn Kozak was removing excess gravel underneath the crusher when he got caught in the pulley, says Casey Leahey, an AEII investigator who handled the case. The portable unit was being used to crush large pieces of rock into gravel as part of a road maintenance project, Leahey says. The young worker succumbed to his injuries at the scene, he says.

In January, Kozak’s employer, Fitzgerald Construction (2001) Inc., pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the machinery had proper safeguards to prevent workers from contacting moving parts.

Fitzgerald Construction originally faced 11 counts related to, among other things, worker training. All but the one charge were withdrawn after the guilty plea was entered, Leahey notes.

Don Coleman, a manager at Fitzgerald Construction, says the company wanted to avoid an emotional trial. “We elected to go this route, rather than go through a nasty trial,” Coleman says, adding Bonnyville, the small northeastern Alberta town where the company is located, is a tight-knit community.

Following the fatal incident, Fitzgerald Construction reviewed all machinery to ensure that protective guards were in place, he reports.

Of the $300,000 penalty, $288,500 will go to the Alberta Workers’ Health Centre; the remainder will be split between a fine and a victim fine surcharge.

Leahey describes the fine — the maximum under Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act for a first offence being $500,000 per count — as at the “higher end” of the scale.

Last year, for example, the top oh&s penalty levied in the province was $350,000, notes information from AEII. Total health and safety fines in 2007, which reached $1.72 million, were up almost $200,000 over 2006.

My opinion

My research showed that the Alberta Ministry of Labour may have been more diligent in their approach to health and safety; at least they used to be. Now it is another matter.

Machine Guarding, or more importantly, the lack there of, is a very serious issue. The Ontario government has numerous sections in the sector regulations covering ‘Machine Guarding’ and each has their own part to play. It was deemed important enough that all the big sectors, including the following, a) Construction, b) Industrial, c) Mining and d) Healthcare have their need for the protection of the worker by guarding the moving parts of a machine. Alberta needs to get their act in gear and ensure that the work place becomes a safer place to be.

Remember — In Canada, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Machine Guarding’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at 

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc

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