Blog Post #798 – Deaths Spur Talk of Prevention in the Yukon

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

Occupational health and safety officials in the Yukon have released preliminary reports into two mining fatalities with an eye to enhancing prevention of all work-related accidents.

Released on-line in November 2009, the reports touch on the deaths of Paul Wentzell and Jim Conklin. Wentzell was killed October 19, 2009 when he was struck by his own pickup truck and Conklin died September 11, 2009, when the front-end loader he was operating rolled.

Publicly issuing the reports, which note direct cause and prevention measures, is new for the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, says Kurt Dieckmann, the board’s OH&S director. Calling both deaths “preventable,” Dieckmann says “we did a lot of soul searching after the last couple of fatal incidents that we had and we determined that we have to get information out quicker to people so that they can look at their own workplaces.”

The objective is to release reports into fatalities, critical injuries and serious incidents, says Dieckmann.

Wentzell, a 20-year employee of British Columbia-based Procon Mining and Tunnelling Ltd., was descending on an underground slope and Yukon Zinc Corporation’s Wolverine Mine, near Ross River. “As required on all mobile equipment being used in underground workings, the truck was fitted with an emergency brake in addition to the regular parking brake,” the report says.

Wentzell came upon some equipment while driving down the 15 per cent grade. He stopped, applied the truck’s emergency brake, left the vehicle in neutral and walked toward the equipment.

“The emergency brake did not hold and the vehicle rolled down the decline, striking the young worker from behind,” the report says. “The vehicle came to a stop approximately 20 metres from where it was originally parked when it collided with the second piece of equipment.”

While a standard parking brake prohibits wheel movement, an emergency brake clamps onto a vehicle drive shaft, Dieckmann explains. Typically, an approved emergency brake is enough to stop a vehicle on a 15 per cent slope from moving, he says, adding that board investigators plan to analyze maintenance logs and installation records, related to the emergency brake.

The report recommends preventative steps to be taken, including the following:

• When parking a manual transmission vehicle on a slope, place it either into first gear or into reverse and apply all parking brakes;
• Chock the vehicle’s tires when parked on a steep slope, and;
• Before using equipment, test critical systems and remove from service if any defects are found.

Similar recommendations were made in connection with the death of Conklin, 65, at a mine near Dawson City. He was operating a front-end loader on a ramp with a 16 % grade when the engine stalled, causing the loader to roll backwards down the ramp. “While attempting to steer the loader down the slope without power, it struck a gravel bank at the bottom of the slope. The left side tires ran up onto the gravel bank, causing the loader to roll over onto its cab. The cab was crushed along with the operator,” the report says.

To prevent similar incidents, the report says equipment with faulty braking systems must be removed from service. The same is true for equipment without adequate rollover protection.

My opinion

The Yukon has been doing its share in protecting its workers. This report comes from a 2010 article explaining why changes to workplace safety are necessary. Yes, I understand that changes seem to come after something tragic happens on the job but at least the changes were needed as part of the Yukon’s permanent corrective action plan. Changes were necessary and the Yukon stepped up to the plate.

I wish the provinces and territories were more unified when it comes to health and safety in the workplace. Changes in one province could easily be made anywhere if they health and safety professionals in each area recognize the need for immediate action.

Ensure your workplace is a safe place.

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 ‘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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