Blog Post #336 – $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 All but the one charge were withdrawn after the guilty plea was entered, Leahey notes.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

Machine guarding, in whatever province, is a course that is necessary to be taught. It does not have the same effect as ‘Fall Protection, Aerial Work Platform, Forklift and other courses. It is viewed as a weak sister to the big guys. Never-the-less, when machinery is involved, a course in machine guarding should be made mandatory. The operator or other workers need to recognize the hazard when a machine guard is not in place.

In Alberta, the following applies,

Safety training

15(1) An employer must ensure that a worker is trained in the safe operation of the equipment the worker is required to operate.

(2) An employer must ensure that the training referred to in subsection (1) includes the following:

(a) the selection of the appropriate equipment;
(b) the limitations of the equipment;
(c) an operator’s pre-use inspection;
(d) the use of the equipment;
(e) the operator skills required by the manufacturer’s specifications for the equipment;
(f) the basic mechanical and maintenance requirements of the equipment;
(g) loading and unloading the equipment if doing so is a job

This is a clear case of the employer not knowing his/her responsibility under the law. A simple training course would have given the worker a much better chance than the one he had. Mind you, the competency standard puts almost all of the responsibility to the worker. I am glad Ontario takes a different view and has a separate section in the OHSA which states the responsibilities of the supervisor in the workplace environment. Most importantly, the health and safety of the worker is his/her responsibility. One more layer of protection for the worker.

Remember — In Canada, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

Remember: Alberta Health and Safety – An Oxymoron!

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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