OHS Canada Magazine

Former BC premier implicated in accident

HALFMOON BAY, BC (Canadian OH&S News)

HALFMOON BAY, BC (Canadian OH&S News)

The former premier of British Columbia has been named the prime contractor in a WorkSafeBC investigation report into a workplace fatality at his summer vacation home last year.

On July 4, four workers from Sechelt, BC-based Weather Tight Supplies Ltd were replacing the roof of the Halfmoon Bay home, owned by Gordon Campbell, who served as premier from 2001 to 2011. Shortly after 12:30 pm, after removing a skylight and covering the approximately one square metre opening in the flat roof with a sheet of polyethylene, a worker stepped backwards and fell through the temporary covering. He fell over five metres to the floor below (COHSN, July 18, 2011).

The worker sustained unspecified injuries and was taken to hospital, but died the next day. The worker had been wearing fall protection, but was not tied off to an anchor point, the investigation report says.

In lieu of any written agreement between the homeowner and another party, Campbell became the prime contractor for the project, the report says. Though his wife is the owner of the home, Campbell is considered an owner under the Workers Compensation Act (WCA) because he was acting as his wife’s agent for the renovation.


As such, the report states Campbell should have ensured workers’ activities relating to health and safety were co-ordinated and in compliance with the WCA. As well, a risk assessment should have been done, which would include a written fall protection plan.

“The homeowner was not aware he was the prime contractor at the workplace or what those responsibilities involved. The homeowner did not meet the responsibilities the prime contractor has to adequately co-ordinate health and safety activities at this workplace or to establish and maintain a system to ensure compliance with the [WCA] and [Occupational Health and Safety] Regulation,” the report states. “There was no discussion of health and safety with subcontractors or of how the activities of one trade would affect another.”

The report concludes that the unguarded roof opening, unused fall protection, the employer’s failure to establish safe work procedures around roof openings and inadequate supervision and enforcement, as well as a lack of co-ordination of health and safety activities, all contributed to the fatal incident.

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5 Comments » for Former BC premier implicated in accident
  1. Richard Burton says:

    Interesting! I presume Mr. Campbell was charged but that is not explicitly clear to me. Could have wider implications for other provinces’ home owners and contractual due diligence. If OHS Canada could follow this case closely and provide periodic updates as it proceeds through the legal or quasi-legal processes would help keep us informed.

  2. Paul E. Marquis says:

    This ruling sends a clear message to homeowners and developers alike. Do your due diligence. The cost of ensuring that the proper coordination of Safety and Loss Prevention is far less that the cost of a fatality, or even an injury to an unknown worker. We need to take responsibility and stop thinking that we have no control over the lowly worker doing the work to our property.

    Too many homeowners employ the lowest bidder an, falsely, believe that they have no responsibility for these contractors and their worker. Accountability, responsibility… Harsh words? We think not. We must all take responsibility for our premises and the people who are part of our lives, our work, our prosperity.

    Paul E. Marquis

  3. Bill Barrick says:

    Paul E. Marquis says this sends a clear message to homeowners and developers. I fail to see where any message has been sent to anyone but safety professionals who should already know this stuff. Homeowners and the small contractors do not get this information. This particular homeowner worked in the area of legislation for years and was apparently not aware. Paul also says “we” need to take responsibility. I can only assume he means homeowners, who will not be getting this message so will also not be aware. As safety professionals trying to help safety on the job we are the ones needing to take responsibility so I suppose maybe that is what he means. So we need to provide the message to homeowners and small (i.e. one to five people) contractors. Any ideas for how to do that? Maybe at the permitting stage written information needs to be provided to the owners, as they are the ones ultimately responsible. I think by mail is necessary as it may not be the homeowner, but the contractor who gets the permit.

  4. J. Bott says:

    The concept of “prime contactor” works fine in an industrial environment where we have safety professionals who know and understand the act. It is ridiculous to expect a residential owner (say your grandmother) to understand the OH&S act or take on the responsibilities of the prime contactor. In a residential environment, the sub contactor working for the residential owner should accept the responsibilities of being the prime contactor. However, I would say that most sub contactors that work residential don’t even have an idea of the concept or requirments of a prime contactor.

  5. Robert W. Landry says:

    Ontario law is quiet explicit and known to health and safety practitioners in the construction industry. No doubt homeowners ignorant of the law would be shocked to find themselves in a similar situation to the former BC Premier and family.

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