Failed by the sys­tem

The Compass - - OPINION - Melissa Jenk­ins

Some would call the sit­u­a­tion Gat­lyn Eng­land has faced in the past two years an in­jus­tice.

This 20-year-old from the Con­cep­tion Bay town of Marys­vale was nearly killed dur­ing an in­ci­dent in July 2011 when he was hit in the head with a frozen fish weigh­ing 40 pounds (see page A1), while of­fload­ing a fish­ing ves­sel docked at the wharf in Bay Roberts. He was not wear­ing a hard hat.

Af­ter the in­ci­dent, Eng­land learned Har­bour In­ter­na­tional — his em­ployer — could not be held re­spon­si­ble for his in­juries be­cause leg­is­la­tion from Work­place Health, Safety and Com­pen­sa­tion Com­mis­sion (WHSCC) pre­vent em­ploy­ers from be­ing sued.

When he hired le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, the idea was to re­ceive com­pen­sa­tion from 55104 New­found­land and Labrador Ltd. — the owner of the ves­sel he was work­ing on.

In re­cent weeks, the Eng­land fam­ily learned there were also leg­is­la­tions to pro­tect the third-party em­ployer (i.e. 55104) from le­gal ac­tion, also stemming from WHSCC leg­is­la­tion.

Ex­pla­na­tion? Com­pany 55104 was also im­mune from get­ting sued. In other words, Gat­lyn does not have a le­gal leg to stand on.

If WHSCC de­cides to go ahead and sue Har­bour In­ter­na­tional for the in­ci­dent, it pock­ets the money.

So what be­comes of this young man, in the prime of his life, who now has per­ma­nent phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions, on­go­ing in­juries and loss of hear­ing in one ear, all sus­tained one month af­ter com­plet­ing high school? Will he be com­pen­sated for work­ing in an un­safe en­vi­ron­ment? It now looks very un­likely. Eng­land has ex­hausted all av­enues for ob­tain­ing com­pen­sa­tion from the par­ties in­volved be­cause they are not “legally re­spon­si­ble” (al­though Har­bour In­ter­na­tional is fac­ing charges that stem from the in­ci­dent).

Is it in­jus­tice that some­one in Eng­land’s sit­u­a­tion has re­ceived very lit­tle from WHSCC, who com­pen­sated him a mere $2,500 be­cause he only lost his hear­ing?

Is it in­jus­tice that an or­ga­ni­za­tion put in place to pro­tect work­ers from be­ing harmed also pro­tects com­pa­nies from be­ing held re­spon­si­ble if some­one does get hurt?

And what about the fact that Eng­land will have to spend the next 60 to 80 years of his life ques­tion­ing why the sys­tem failed him?

How many other cases like this — where peo­ple were de­nied proper com­pen­sa­tion for a se­ri­ous in­jury or death — have been swept un­der the rug? Un­for­tu­nately, we may never know. But one thing is for cer­tain, vic­tims of se­ri­ous work­place in­juries will never be pro­tected as long as em­ploy­ers have im­mu­nity from tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.