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Sask mine operator receives province’s maximum penalty

VANSCOY, Sask (Canadian OH&S News)


VANSCOY, Sask (Canadian OH&S News)

A potash surface mine operator in Saskatchewan has pleaded guilty to the province’s maximum fine for an occupational health and safety violation, in connection with a worker fatality two years ago.

On May 11, 2010, Edward Artic, who had worked at Agrium Inc’s Vanscoy site for over 10 years, was inside a hoist well when a component fell from a load being lifted by an overhead crane. The device fell six stories and struck the 59-year-old worker in the head, killing him instantly (COHSN May 24, 2010).

Agrium pleaded guilty on May 28 to failing to provide or maintain a working environment that ensured, as far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of a worker, contrary to Section 12(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, and agreed to the maximum fine of $300,000 plus a $120,000 victim surcharge. Three other charges against Agrium were stayed.

Tamara Harrison, the crown prosecutor assigned to the case, explained that a maximum fine was sought because the incident resulted in a fatality, Agrium had a previous similar conviction — in 2006 a rock fell and a worker received a serious injury — and judges specifically allow prosecutors to look at the fact that because the accused is a large, profitable company, the fine must be high enough to have a deterrent effect.

“We’re happy that the company did the right thing and decided to put an end to it for the family and co-workers and everybody involved,” says Darrin Kruger, president of USW Local 7552, of which Artic was a member.

Agrium’s lawyer says it was important for the company to move forward out of respect for the family, adding there is a good working relationship between Agrium and the family, “who didn’t want to see this worker’s death in vain.”

“The company recognized that anything you can do could be done better. There is always a constellation of factors that contribute to the cause of the accident,” and Agrium was one of those factors, says Michael Tochor of MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman LLP, in Regina.

Since the incident the company has spent $3.6 million on remedial measures at the site, just southwest of Saskatoon, Tochor notes. This includes redesigning and retrofitting the entire hoist well, rewriting and reworking health and safety policies and procedures, providing financial assistance to the family and counselling for workers and constructing a memorial tribute to Artic on the site.

Kruger says it is good the company has taken steps towards eliminating safety hazards, but “we have a very old plant. Forty year old infrastructure doesn’t just change overnight; it takes a lot of planning, capital investment and time to change those.”

Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety recently introduced amendments that would bump the maximum penalty in cases with a serious injury or death from $300,000 to $1.5 million, making them the highest in the country. The amendments would take effect this fall (COHSN, May 21, 2012).


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1 Comment » for Sask mine operator receives province’s maximum penalty
  1. Patrick Hanly says:

    May 11th 2010, two years since the event took place and 4 years after another similar event took place where, a young man received an injury that resulted in a significant loss of mobility for the rest of his life.

    The union, is “happy” that the company did the right thing. Sadly enough, the comment reflects the perspective from the president of the union, a gross misunderstanding of what the right thing is. Six years ago, Two years ago, and today. The right thing would be to provide personnel sufficient protective measures to ensure that the fathers, husbands, sons, uncles, brothers, and friends can return home safely.

    Sad comment from an individual positioned as a leader, his training/competency in assessing safe working practices, should become a matter of public record. Introducing the requirement for a union president or any union representative to have appropriate Hazard Identification Skills; maybe a more effective memorial tribute to Mr Artic. This would be a memorial that provides ‘Leaders” with the skills to proactively address life threatening conditions, before their fellow, members and associates were exposed to them.

    I guess there could be an argument put forth by either party, that there existed sufficient, corrective or preventative measures in place now and 6 years ago.

    $420,000 it would be interesting to see if the company’s legal fees were more than the judgment.

    One person with a significant loss of mobility and another family with a loss of a father, and the company is fined almost the cost of a new home in many cities.

    If I sound angry, its because I am, Unions and Billion Dollar Companies, that provide insufficient protection, training and safe working conditions, that result in injury and death, do make me angry. Especially when preventable accidents are repeated on unionized sites.

    Happy Fathers Day

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