Blog Post #571 – Guilty Plea in Worker’s Death

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

A British Columbia-based mining company entered a guilty plea to two charges stemming from a deadly accident at a mine in the Yukon two years ago.

On October 19, 2009, Paul Wentzell, a 20-year-old apprentice mechanic employed by Procon Mining and Tunnelling Ltd., was working at Yukon Zinc Corporation’s Wolverine Mine site.

Wentzell was driving a 2004 Toyota Land Cruiser down to 15% grade to deliver apart to a co-worker when he came upon another piece of equipment parked on the ramp. He pushed the Land Cruiser emergency brake actuation button on the dash (but did not engage the regular parking brake). Leaving the vehicle in neutral, he began walking toward the parked equipment.

A preliminary investigation report notes “the emergency brake did not hold and the vehicle rolled down the decline, striking the young worker from behind” and causing serious internal injuries.
“The vehicle came to a stop approximately 20 m from where it was originally part when it collided with the second piece of equipment,” the report adds. Wentzell later died in hospital.

In early August, Procon Mining and Tunnelling pleaded guilty to two counts under the Yukon’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, confirms Frank Fry, a spokesperson for the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board in Whitehorse. The charges cite the failure to ensure the emergency brakes on the vehicle were maintained in safe operating condition, and the failure to ensure a worker had demonstrated competence in operating the vehicle to a supervisor or qualified person.

Six other charges were stayed relating to the following alleged failures:

• Ensure the vehicle was properly identified when unsafe for use;

• inspect, repair or maintain a braking system in accordance with good engineering practice;

• inspect the braking system within its 250-our maintenance schedule;

• insurer worker had received adequate training in the safe use and operation of the vehicle;

• ensure the worker was under direct supervision while operating mobile equipment; and,

• Ensure the emergency brake actuation control was identified to and indicate the function it served.

Yukon Zinc has not been charged.

“Only Procon was charged because the safety issues involved with the totality related directly to that company’s operations and did not involve any aspects of the mine’s operations,” Fry says.
The maximum fine per count for a first offense is $150,000 and $300,000 for subsequent breach.

My opinion

I can only speak to Ontario standards but section 25 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), sub-section 1 (b) and (c) states,
“An employer shall ensure that,

(b) The equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer are maintained in good condition;

(c) The measures and procedures prescribed are carried out in the workplace.”

Section 25 of the OHSA, subsection 2 (a) states,

“An employer shall,

(a) provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker.”

As you can see, the employer shall do everything reasonable to protect their workers. If they cannot see that far ahead then the fines will continue to grow and possibly put an employer like this out of business. A guilty plea will go along way in the needed culture change that will be required by Procon Mining and Tunneling Ltd.

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. 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 – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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