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Collapse of transmission tower in Newfoundland kills two workers

Forbes employees hailed from Saskatchewan, Ontario


(Canadian OH&S News) — Construction of a transmission line was halted west of Come by Chance, N.L. on June 19, after two workers were killed by a transmission tower’s sudden collapse.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro (N.L. Hydro) confirmed in a news release sent out at 3:30 p.m. that day that a serious workplace incident had occurred during construction on a new transmission line from Bay d’Espoir to the Avalon Peninsula. The victims were employees of Forbes Bros. Ltd., an Edmonton-based company that N.L. Hydro had contracted for the project.

A June 21 press release from Forbes identified the workers as 34-year-old Jared Moffat and 31-year-old Tim McLean. Moffat hailed from Prince Albert, Sask., while McLean was originally from Nipigon, Ont.

“This is a very difficult time for the family and friends of the workers who unfortunately lost their lives,” Forbes Senior Vice President Matthew Forbes said in a media statement on June 20. “We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to them as they deal with this loss of their loved ones. Forbes employees are a closely knit group, and we deeply feel this loss.”

He added that the company would work with N.L. Hydro and Service N.L., the province’s occupational health and safety authority, to investigate the tragedy.

“We have a team dedicated to ensure timely public disclosure and a comprehensive investigation,” said Matthew Forbes. “We as a company, community and industry need to ensure accidents such as this do not reoccur.”

On the morning of June 21, Forbes held a company-wide moment of silence out of respect for Moffat and McLean. The corporation then resumed non-related work activities at its sites outside of Newfoundland and Labrador, although the Come by Chance worksite remained closed and all construction on the Bay d’Espoir/Avalon Peninsula line was temporarily suspended.

N.L. Hydro president Jim Haynes also offered condolences to the victims and their co-workers and families in a press statement.

“We all have heavy hearts as we think of the individuals involved and what their families are going through,” said Haynes.

“Hundreds of skilled and dedicated people are working on similar projects in this province every day. That is why we must continue our relentless commitment to safety and do everything possible to help ensure that everyone goes home safely.”

Don Murphy, the business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1620, told COHSN that he felt “concerned” and “dismayed” when he heard about the incident.

“Nobody wants to hear that someone got killed on the job,” said Murphy. “You try to mitigate risks, you try to plan around it for the work, but unfortunately, sometimes things happen.”

He expressed concern about such an incident occurring in a non-unionized environment, as Forbes’ employees do not belong to a union like IBEW. “I can only speculate, maybe they did not feel comfortable talking about issues,” he said. “In a union environment, we’ve got, honestly, a high concentration on talking about safety and dealing with safety issues with regards to our occupational health and safety committees.”

Murphy added that some employers may retaliate against non-union workers who bring up safety issues by terminating their jobs. “With any construction job, there’s always issues related to people staying on the job or being the first to go, for whatever reasons,” he said, noting that some employers put productivity ahead of safety.

“I would love to have some kind of comfortable whistleblower process out there for all workers to be able to comfortably deal with issues on the worksites,” he said, “whether they’re on a worksite of 100 people or if they’re on a small worksite of five people.”

In the days following the incident, separate GoFundMe.com pages were set up to assist the victims’ families. As of June 26, the page for Moffat had collected $31,080 of it $50,000 goal, while the one for McLean had reached $23,790 of its $25,000 goal.

“Jared was a friend to so many. A loving father and one of the best human beings I had the pleasure of knowing,” Graham Cennon of Estevan, Sask. wrote on the GoFundMe.com page for Moffat.

“Tim was the happiest, most loving person I’ve ever had the chance to meet,” wrote Levi Sawchuk, a friend and co-worker of McLean from Ituna, Sask., on McLean’s page. “We miss you buddy!”

N.L. Hydro began building the 230-kilovolt transmission line between Bay d’Espoir and the Avalon Peninsula last summer, according to information from its website. The line is expected to be finished and operational in October.