Land­mark sen­tence aims to cre­ate safer work­places

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Pa­trick Ko­lafa

It was just six days be­fore tragedy struck that 15-yearold Chris Lawrence met with his mother Ni­cole Suther­land over a milk­shake. He was ex­cited about his new job, she hugged him, said she loved him and told him to be safe.

On July 19, 2014, her worst fear came true. Christo­pher per­ished at a job site near Dorothy af­ter his vest be­came tan­gled in a gravel crusher. Thanks to a cre­ative and land­mark sen­tence, his name may live on as a legacy in mak­ing job sites safer. The Mail re­ported in its De­cem­ber 14, 2016, edi­tion that Ar­gon Con­struc­tion pleaded guilty to, be­ing an em­ployer, did fail to pro­vide safe­guards if a worker may ac­ci­den­tally, or through the work progress, come into con­tact with mov­ing parts of machin­ery, con­trary to sec­tion 310(2)(A) of the Oc­cu­pa­tional Health and Safety Code.

On July 14, Christo­pher was re­mov­ing gravel that ac­cu­mu­lated un­der the ma­chine. While he was wear­ing safety equip­ment, he was not wear­ing the proper tear away vest when he used a short han­dled shovel to per­form the task. While he was work­ing, his safety vest be­came en­tan­gled in an un­guarded ro­tat­ing con­veyor belt on the tail pul­ley shaft. He was pulled into the con­veyor and died.

On Fri­day, April 21, the com­pany was sen­tenced.

The mother and fa­ther of Christo­pher, as well as his step­fa­ther, per­son­ally read into the record their vic­tim im­pact state­ments, and his grand­mother’s state­ment was read into the record by Adele Tait, lead in­ves­ti­ga­tion spe­cial­ist with Al­berta Labour.

Pros­e­cu­tor K. He­witt and de­fense for Ar­gon Con­struc­tion agreed to rec­om­mend a joint sen­tence that could save lives in the fu­ture.

The com­pany was fined $50,000. It was also or­dered to give $200,000 to cre­ate best prac­tices and a youth cam­paign and cour­ses for the sand and gravel in­dus­try.

Wayne Wood­house of the Al­berta Sand and Gravel As­so­ci­a­tion ex­plains that in sen­tenc­ing, Al­berta Labour helped to pull to­gether the part­ner­ship with his or­ga­ni­za­tion as well as Safety in Schools, the Al­berta Con­struc­tion and Safety As­so­ci­a­tion and the Al­berta Road­builders and Heavy Con­struc­tion As­so­ci­a­tion to cre­ate this new pro­gram. The

in­tent of the pro­gram is to es­tab­lish best prac­tices, de­liver train­ing re­sources tar­geted at young work­ers and pre­vent an in­ci­dent like this from ever re­cur­ring.

The scope of the project is to cre­ate best prac­tices and cre­ate a cam­paign de­signed to ed­u­cate youth about work­place in­ci­dents. It also aims to cre­ate an online mod­ule fo­cused on guards for the Con­struc­tion Safety Train­ing Sys­tem. It will also up­grade the crush­ing mod­ule to in­clude sil­ica ex­po­sure and guard re­quire­ments for the Road­builders Safety Train­ing Sys­tem.

Ar­gon Con­struc­tion will par­tic­i­pate by be­com­ing a mem­ber of the Al­berta Sand and Gravel As­so­ci­a­tion and par­tic­i­pate in its Health and Safety Com­mit­tee. The com­pany will also present at the As­so­ci­a­tion’s next An­nual Gen­eral Meet­ing.

Ar­gon Con­struc­tion is a fam­ily owned busi­ness op­er­at­ing for 37 years and was co­op­er­a­tive through­out the process. It of­fered the fam­ily its re­grets and an apol­ogy with the deep­est sin­cer­ity. It was also or­dered to pro­duce a writ­ten pub­lic ac­knowl­edg­ment that de­scribes the in­ci­dent, the mea­sures it has taken since and lessons learned. It will be pub­lished by the Al­berta Sand and Gravel As­so­ci­a­tion.

Judge Grieve ac­cepted the joint sub­mis­sion, not­ing “this is go­ing to be a legacy for Christo­pher Lawrence.”

mailphoto by O.R Sheddy

Ar­gon Con­struc­tion was sen­tenced in a Drumheller Court room on Fri­day, April 21 for one charge un­der the Oc­cu­pa­tional Health and Safety Code.

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