Posts Tagged ‘Alberta’

2 Men Killed in Electrical Accident in Edmonton, Canada

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

EDMONTON, ALBERTA, CANADA – The sudden deaths of two men who were electrocuted on a farm near Ellerslie Road and Meridian Street is highlighting a gap in coverage under Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The men were found dead by police and paramedics responding to a 911 call around 3:45 a.m. Thursday. It appears they were electrocuted when a portable auger touched an overhead power line.

Police initially said the deaths would be investigated by Alberta Occupational Health and Safety. Investigators from the OHS went to the scene, but left after determing the men were working on a farm.  Provincial regulations don’t apply because in Alberta, most operations directly or indirectly related to farming and ranching are exempt.

There’s been a lot of talk in Alberta about extending Occupational Health and Safety regulations to farms but no action has been taken. Farming and ranching are also exempt from the Workers’ Compensation Act and WCB coverage for disability and insurance is not mandatory for farm and ranch workers.

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Alberta Pursuing Workplace Safety Fines Including Past ElectricalSafety Violations

November 6, 2010 Leave a comment

CALGARY, CANADA – Alberta companies haven’t paid at least $1.7 million in fines levied for worker deaths or injuries, but the provincial government has — for the first time in recent memory — gone after one of the convicted employers.

Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk vowed Friday the government will crack down on every delinquent company.

“We will be going after every single one of them,” Lukaszuk said.

On Friday, the provincial government announced a number of steps to strengthen workplace safety enforcement. It will hire eight more safety officers, create a new secretariat to deal with occupational disease, release a safe driving guide, and require that government officials consult victims’ families during the creative sentencing process.

These actions follow a Herald investigation of workplace deaths in Alberta, which found the province hasn’t systematically tracked whether convicted companies have paid court-imposed penalties.

The figure of $1.7 million in outstanding fines, provided to the Herald last month, covers only part of the past decade.

Neither Alberta Justice nor Alberta Employment would disclose what fforts have been made to collect on these overdue fines, which involve at least 14 employers.

However, the province maintains the majority of fines have been collected.

In an interview, Lukaszuk noted some fined companies have declared bankruptcy, which he called a success story because, “that means that unsafe workplace no longer exists.”

Companies that are still in business, but have not paid, will have their day in court to explain why, the minister added.

“If we were to be lenient and not enforce judgments, the entire premise of the system would collapse,” Lukaszuk said.

On Thursday, the Alberta government took a significant step toward tougher fine enforcement, laying charges against Steve’s Oilfield Services (Edson) Ltd.

The province alleges the company failed to pay a $95,000 creative sentence fine it was given in 2007 in connection to a worker injury four years earlier.

According to an agreed statement of facts from the company’s original conviction, safety features on a forklift were disabled by an unknown person.

This eventually led to employee Martin Fossheim, then 18 years old, being pinned under the machine and suffering severe injuries, including a fractured skull and punctured lung.

Lukaszuk said the company will appear in court next week.

No one from the firm was available for comment.

Reached in Edson on Friday, Fossheim, now 25, holds no ill will toward his former employer and doesn’t think the company should have been fined.

He worked for Steve’s Oilfield Services for three years after his injury.

Fossheim said his former employer is “someone who takes good care of his employees” and he learned numerous skills on the job that have helped him open his own oilfield company.

But other cases of unpaid workplace safety fines span the province and have frustrated families of fallen workers.

Calgarian Timothy Hamilton was killed on the job 11 years ago, electrocuted as he erected a tent for a corporate Stampede party.

The company convicted of failing to protect the worker’s safety never paid its $100,000 fine, court documents show. Fiesta Party Rentals was struck from the province’s corporate registry in 2003.

“To be able to declare bankruptcy and walk away is wrong,” said Julie Hamilton, Timothy’s mother.

“They have to be paid so that other people will smarten up and pay attention to the rules.”

Former provincial Crown lawyer Tamara Trull said the fact the government is finally pursuing unpaid fines is a positive step.

Trull, who prosecuted occupational safety offences from 2002 to 2007, revealed this summer she had raised concerns about uncollected penalties in 2006. However, she said her call for tougher fine enforcement went unheeded.

“It should have been done sooner, but it’s good that they’re doing it,” Trull said.

“If (fines) are not followed up on, we’re not going to have proper deterrence in the province. Prosecutions aren’t going to be taken seriously.”

Alberta Justice spokesman David Dear said the government is also improving its system for tracking workplace penalties. New electronic measures are expected to be in place early next year.

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