Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice. She has been practicing law since 1994, with brief stints away to begin raising children. Susan has experience in many areas of law, but is most drawn to areas in which she can make a positive difference in people’s lives, including employment law. She has been a member of the Law Society of Alberta since 1994 and a member of the Law Society of British Columbia since 2015. Susan grew up in Saskatchewan. Her parents were both entrepreneurs, and her father was also a union leader who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of workers. Before moving to B.C., Susan practiced law in both Calgary and Fort McMurray, AB. Living and practicing law in Fort McMurray made a lasting impression on Susan. It was in this isolated and unique community that her interest in employment law, and Canada’s oil sands industry, took hold. In 2013, Susan moved to the Okanagan with her family, where she currently resides. Photo: Contributed

Kootnekoff: criminal charges for safety violations on a B.C. construction site

Peter Kiewit Sons ULC, a large American-based corporation, has been charged with criminal negligence causing death. These charges arise because a 24 year old employee died on the job February 22, 2009.

Also charged were two managers. I have previously written about the Westray provisions in the Criminal Code, under which supervisors who fail to direct work safely may be criminally charged.

It is alleged that Kiewit and the supervisors failed to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to the young worker, Mr. Sam Fitzpatrick, contrary to section 220(b) of the Criminal Code.

The incident happened while Kiewit, a large construction company, was preparing a rock slope site to install a run-of-river hydroelectric project. Workers were drilling, blasting and scaling the rock slope. The angle of the mountain slope was being increased so that a large pipe could be installed to transport water to a hydroelectric station.

Just the day before, Kiewit had suspended its construction operations on the worksite due to a “near miss” incident.

An internal investigation of that incident indicated that an excavator dislodged a rock. The rock travelled down the rock slope, and struck a hoe-drill located on the lower portion of the worksite, causing damage to the hoe drill.

The internal investigation report indicated that the root cause of the rock fall was the excavator, which was working above the area of the hoe drill, and its associated crew.

A new work plan was made. From then on, only one bench would be worked at a time.

Section 20.97 of the B.C. Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (the OH&S Regulation) states: “Rock scaling and like work must be undertaken from the top down, and any area into which material will fall must be kept clear of workers and equipment.”

The next day, February 22, 2009, when worksite operations resumed, despite the new work plan, Mr. Fitzpatrick and others were ordered to drill rock in an area in which at least one excavator was directed to work above them. Tragically, Mr. Fitzpatrick was struck by a large boulder that had rolled down the rock slope into the area in which he was working.

One or more excavators were working above him, clearing loose rock.

Heartbreakingly, his younger brother was working nearby and watched it happen.

The WCB investigated. It found that Kiewit violated sections 115(2)(a) and (e) of the Workers Compensation Act, and additional provisions in the OH&S Regulation.

Specifically, it found that Kiewit had failed to correct unstable materials which was hazardous to workers, failed to have an effective system to ensure through site assessment that scaling was done, failed to have an effective scaling plan in operation, and failed to effectively instruct and train its workers to ensure unstable materials were removed or stabilized before work was done in locations where unstable materials posed a hazard.

The WCB concluded that these violations created a high risk of serious injury or death to several workers and that Kiewit was “reckless” and “grossly negligent.”

Kiewit was originally fined $250,000.

Despite this, upon appeal, the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT) reduced the fine to $100,000. This part of the case alone is a whole other story. To a corporation of this size, this may be a minor cost of doing business.

Now, it faces criminal charges.

This is one of the largest organizations yet to be charged under the Criminal Code for a workplace fatality.

Some businesses still consider worksite safety as a barrier to their operational goals, rather than an important goal of it’s own. This attitude has the potential to result in imprisonment for key players.

Maybe one day, our children will live in a country in which prompt charges of this nature are the rule, rather than the exception.

To report a typo, email:
newstips@kelownacapnews.com
.


@KelownaCapNews
newstips@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Penticton, Kelowna, Osoyoos among most searched travel spots for Canadians

New data from Google shows many Canadians are searching for a vacation in the Okanagan

Kelowna man convicted of not paying taxes after turbulent trial

Man claims he doesn’t meet the definition of a ‘person’ under the federal Income Tax Act

UPDATE: Fire near Wood Lake a “smoke chase”

A water bomber reportedly took off from Penticton and is on the way to Lake Country

Accused in Kelowna’s 2018 Canada Day killing granted bail more than 1.5 years later

Esa Carriere was stabbed to death during the Canada Day fireworks in downtown Kelowna in 2018

Nakusp and Westbank First Nation groups meet to discuss regional partnerships

New Nakusp sawmill, restoration of old youth centre were some topics of discussion

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

Vernon pedestrian struck dies from injuries

Emergency responders are on scene on Main Street near the CIBC, traffic affected

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Two people dead after Highway 1 collision west of Kamloops

Two-vehicle accident closed Trans-Canada Highway for more than five hours

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

Most Read