Two construction companies have been fined in the death of a little girl who was hit by debris from a Calgary worksite.

Germain Residences of Quebec City and subcontractor Flynn Canada must pay $15,000 after pleading guilty to Alberta safety code violations. A charge against a third company was withdrawn.

On Aug. 1, 2009, three-year-old Michelle Krsek was killed as she walked as her family on 9th Avenue when sheet of metal fell from a downtown construction site. She and her family were taking relatives from Romania to see the Calgary Tower when a violent windstorm hit. The Crown says the companies did not properly secure a stack of roofing material.

Excerpts from article by Jamie Komarnicki of the Calgary Herald

According to an agreed statement of facts entered in court Monday, workers with Flynn didn’t properly screw a stack of sheet metal to secure it to the roof of the Le Germain project when they left the site July 27. Of seven one-inch sheet metal screws used to secure a 552-pound bundle of steel, only four penetrated the roof deck.

If Germain officials had inspected the site, the improperly secured stack of steel deck sheets would have been apparent, according to the statement.

Eight firefighters spent two hours securing loose building material on exposed floors of the Germain Building, including metal roofing material, scrap lumber, and pieces of plywood and drywall, which were “strewn about and susceptible to falling off the Germain building,” the document stated.

The city is recommending that the Judge Gerald Meagher impose the maximum fine under the Alberta Safety Codes Act of a $15,000 fine each.

City lawyer Christopher Archer pointed out the amount of time that lapsed between the Flynn crew leaving the site on July 27 and the windstorm on Aug. 1 that the steel was unattended on the roof.

“This was not a momentary oversight,” he said. “This is a negligent act that took place in a heavily populated area.

My opinion

Well, well, here we are back in Alberta once again. The land of ‘Health and Safety’ – NOT!

Again, we see the sub-standards applied here in a very backwards province, Alberta. The life of a 3 year old girl is worth only $15,000. Gross negligence is worth only a maximum of $15,000. Unbelievable, isn’t it?

I realize it is only a regulatory offence and not a criminal one. Cannot Bill C-45 be used here? I know it is a stretch but too many people are getting hurt or killed in Alberta but cannot the Canadian version of the health and safety law be used. What happened could easily be seen as a criminal act. Oh, I forgot, we are talking about Alberta.

Bill C-45 was created because Canada, as a whole, and some of the smaller provinces, did not have adequate legislation to protect workers. The ‘Westray’ mining accident changed all that.

It seems that are western brothers still have no understanding on the protection of the workers, and any others, around a worksite.

There is a drive on to have more apprentices in Alberta. Maybe the lack of ‘Journeymen’ stems not only because of their aging workforce but also the assumption (and reality) that Alberta is an unsafe place to work, an occupational hazard in itself.

Please go to the website and make your voice known. If the children are not safe around the worksite in Alberta then what chance do the adults have.

Please Alberta, take safety direction from Ontario. Issues are still happening here but the much larger fines that are usually levied are giving the companies pause for thought. They begin to re-evaluate their own health and safety policies and procedures and strive to work toward safety self-improvement.

If companies are aware of all the laws they may be breaking because of Ontario’s reputation for large fines then these same companies will attempt to do much more by learning what the standards are and attempt to live up to them.

Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

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

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