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Worker emerges from coma after construction accident

MONTREAL (Canadian OH&S News)


MONTREAL (Canadian OH&S News)

Quebec’s workplace safety board is closely monitoring the construction site of a superhospital in Montreal following a series of accidents dating back to last year.

The most recent accident at the research centre of the Centre Hospitalier de L’Université de Montreal left a worker in a coma on January 12. That day, Serge Provost, a glazier with Local 135 of the FTQ-Construction union, was working between the fourth and fifth floors of the site under construction when he was struck on the head by a falling block of ice from the 15th floor, says Eric Arseneault, a spokesman with the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST).

The worker’s hard hat was shattered by the block of ice, Arseneault says, leaving him in a coma. At press time, the worker remained in severe condition in hospital but has emerged from his coma, Arseneault reports.

The accident is one of the latest in a string of accidents at the site since construction began in August 2010. A few days after the January 12 incident, more ice fell, although no workers were injured. Last year, a steel pipe fell onto a nearby street, crashing through the window of a taxi driving by. Also that year, Arseneault says, workers were pouring liquid concrete into a mold when the mold broke, dumping the material onto the street. In another instance, a crane tipped at the site.

The CSST has ordered the workplace parties on site – general contractor Consortium Pomerleau-Verreault and the worker’s employer Epsylon Concept Inc – to ensure that potentially dangerous ice at the site is removed, to provide written safety procedures related to work at heights where there is a risk of falling ice, as well as to cover areas where workers may be walking to protect them from overhead hazards. Daily worksite inspections are also being conducted by the worker’s employer, Arseneault adds.

The series of accidents at the site has spurred safety concerns from the FTQ-Construction union. Yves Ouellet, general manager of the union, contends that no security perimeter had been erected at the site, which could have prevented the accident. Ouellet says that even after the accident, union officials observed blocks of ice, planks and pieces of concrete falling from upper floors.

Arseneault could not confirm the reports, saying that the ongoing CSST investigation will determine if a security perimeter was in place.

Union, labour federation calling for changes

The union and the provincial labour federation, the Fédération des travailleurs et des travailleuses du Québec, are calling for a revision of occupational health and safety legislation for the construction industry, noting that Articles 204 to 215 of the Loi sur la santé et la sécurité du travail are not in force.

The sections deal with the establishment of a health and safety committee for employers of 25 or more workers and the requirements surrounding that committee, as well as requirements for site safety representatives, “essential tools” to reduce accidents on construction sites in Quebec, says a statement from FTQ-Construction.

In 2010, the CSST recorded 213 workplace fatalities, 53 of them – nearly 25 per cent – were construction workers. This is a 15 per cent increase over 2009, when 185 fatalities were recorded.