Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine
Alberta’s prosecution service has decided not to proceed with Occupational Health & Safety charges in the death of a mental health care worker.
On February 13, 2011, 41-year-old caregiver Valerie Wolski was suffocated while caring for mentally impaired man at his home in Camrose, Alberta. Terrence Saddleback, 25, was charged with manslaughter, but was found to be mentally unfit to plead and stand trial.
“It was the decision of the Crown prosecutor not to proceed with OH&S charges in this case,” Alberta Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General spokesperson Michelle Davio wrote in an email. “The Crown reviewed all the evidence and determine that the criteria of the prosecution service uses to determine whether to proceed with charges were not met.” She adds that the date for fatality inquiry into Wolski’s death has yet to be determined.
Following her death, Alberta Human Services issued orders to Wolski’s employer, the Canadian Mental Health Association, to produce documents related to training materials and work procedures, but further details are not made available. However, police reports point to Saddleback’s extensive history of assaulting workers.
Rachel Notley, Alberta’s NDP MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona and the parties Alberta Human Services critic, alleges that the provincial government also recommended orders to be written against the contractor, the Persons with Developmental Disabilities Program Central Region Community Board, but it was successfully appealed. “The decision of that successful appeal has not yet been publicly released. We should find out exactly why no one is being held responsible for this,” she argues.
The Alberta NDP is calling on the government to release the April, 2012 appeal decision from the Occupational Health & Safety Council to expedite the fatality inquiry and conduct a larger public inquiries into mental health services in the province. “This is a really urgent problem and waiting around for five years for fatality inquiry is not good enough,” she contends.
A little more than a year after Wolski was murdered, another caregiver in Camrose was killed on the job. On May 12, 2012, officers from the Camrose Police Service found the body of a 61-year-old Dianne McClements in the downstairs area of the Marler Supported Independent Living home, which helps teenagers learn to live independently.
An autopsy concluded that McClement died of multiple sharp injuries. A 17-year-old resident of the home was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and theft of the worker’s vehicle.
Just another day in Alberta! The life of one of their own workers was not worth the laying of any charges. No wonder the PC government was toppled in the last election! Someone had to make change there and improve safety in the workplace. The people have spoken. The NDP government was recently installed to correct mistakes made by the long serving PC government including the long overdue bill to protect farm workers. There are so many examples of the lack of control and the lack of enforcement of health and safety laws in Alberta. It is so frustrating when the rest of Canada puts the life of one person to the forefront and Alberta just buries it somewhere.
Please ensure that your workplace is a safe place. Remember, if want more from your government you will get it, and conversely, if you accept less from your government, well, you will get that to.
Remember – Alberta Health and Safety – An Oxymoron!
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.
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.