Company fined $30,000 for Rec Centre demolition injury

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An Alberta-based company has been fined $30,000 for a NWT Safety Act charge involving a workplace injury in Hay River.

Arctic Environmental Services Ltd., which had earlier pleaded guilty to the offence, received the fine in Hay River Territorial Court on May 8.

The Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission filed charges last year in relation to a July 26, 2016 incident in which a worker was injured operating a scissor-lift while demolishing the Don Stewart Recreation Centre.

Arctic Environmental Services of St. Albert, Alta., entered a guilty plea to failing to provide information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to protect the health and safety of workers during a court appearance in Yellowknife in February.

The sentence on that one charge was based on a joint recommendation by the Crown and the defence.

Judge Robert Gorin agreed with the recommendation and fined the company $30,000, plus a 15 per cent victim of crime surcharge.

Gorin said he was of the view that the accident was preventable had the worker been properly trained.

The judge agreed with the defence argument that the company was not negligent.

“The accused corporation was not knowingly running a risk, but should have done more,” he said.

Injuries could have been much worse

Gorin said the goal of the safety legislation is to foster a culture of safety.

The judge also noted that, while the injuries were considerable, he believes they could have been far greater.

In the agreed statement of facts with the defence, Crown attorney Roger Shepard noted the worker had constructed a ramp for the scissor-lift to enter the old Rec Centre, but then drove the equipment over the ramp into an arena door without being told to do so.

While driving through the narrow space and looking down to see if the scissor-lift was on the ramp, the worker leaned over the equipment’s guardrail and his head struck a light fixture protruding from a wall. As a result, he suffered a broken jaw and lacerations to his head and face.

Shepard told the court that the worker was not designated by Arctic Environmental Services to operate the scissor-lift, but had not been advised he could not operate it. And he believed he was authorized because of his experience, and past practice of using lifts and aerial devices on the site.

“This was a very preventable, foreseeable accident,” Shepard told the court.

Defence counsel Toby Kruger also told the court that the worker had been directed to build the ramp and moved the scissor-lift without being asked to do so.

“It cannot be said that Arctic Environmental directed him to do something that was not safe,” the lawyer said.

Since the accident, Arctic Environmental Services has reviewed and updated its safety procedures, and keys to scissor-lifts and other equipment are now kept in a locked box and have to be signed out.

Arctic Environmental Services president Robert Valleau addressed the judge prior to sentencing, noting that the injury was the first for the small, family-owned company in its 47 years of business.

As a result of the sentence against Arctic Environmental Services, six NWT Safety Act charges were withdrawn against Valleau, and one charge was withdrawn against Clark Builders, the main contractor for the demolition of the old Rec Centre and the construction of a new one.