Inadequate training a factor in teen BMX star’s 2019 death at fish farm
Health & Safety Young Workers british columbia farm fatality
By Zoe Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
NORTH ISLAND GAZETTE
A teen BMX star who died in a fish farm accident near Port Hardy in 2019 was inadequately trained, WorkSafe BC concluded in its report on the incident.
Aidan Webber was 18 years old and had been working for Sea Roamer Marine Services for nine months when he died in an accident on March 10, 2019.
WorkSafe BC investigated and found that Sea Roamer’s safety training and supervision was lacking. It also pointed to inappropriate tie-up points at the Mowi-owned pen at Robertson Island where the incident occurred.
Fish farm fatality
Webber was deckhand on a barge being docked at the fish farm. While the tugboat master was maneuvering the boat into place, Webber jumped from the barge to the walkway of the pen to tie a mooring line. The walkway did not have docking cleats, but required a line to be fed through a small hole at the base of a stanchion (like a fence post) holding the underwater net in place. This often required the deckhand to have their back turned to the barge while securing, the investigator found.
While Webber was bent over tying the line, the barge, still with forward momentum, slid onto the walkway crushing Webber into the stanchion. He died of his injuries before reaching Port Hardy despite attempts to provide first aid.
The firm’s representative told WorkSafe they did not have written procedures for deckhands for mooring or docking vessels. As well, there were no formal orientation procedures or records, and that all training was done informally during work operations, the report stated.
Training for young workers
Workers under 25 years old are also specifically required to receive extra safety orientation and training, which the investigation found was not followed.
Webber’s mother Nicole is frustrated that with such clear violations, there wasn’t even a fine.
She manages a long-term health care facility, and knows how tightly safety regulations are enforced. There seems to be different safety requirements for marine industries, she noted.
“In health care if you don’t fix an issue in your workplace that impacts workers, WCB is so quick to fine the health authority. I have no idea why this company doesn’t have the same kind of consequence.”
Adding to the difficulty of a tragic situation, Webber’s father Jim works at Sea Roamer too. He was part of the crew that trained Webber.
Nicole does not blame Jim for the poor training; she blames the company and the industry.
“The company didn’t have the policy and procedure in place for my husband to train my son properly and safely,” she said.
“After he was killed, my husband repeatedly said Aidan did what he was trained to do. Aidan was trained to work quickly and efficiently.”
Nicole Webber wants to see a fulsome safety orientation be developed for marine workers.
“Aidan was more than a fallen worker, more than a BMX prodigy. He was the most amazing, loving, bright light of a human being. He was joyous. He really represents the best in humanity. I’m just so sorry for Aidan that his life was cut short … because of an industry’s oversight, really,” Nicole Webber said.
Sea Roamer has not yet responded to requests for an interview, nor has Mowi.