Landmark sentence aims to create safer workplaces
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.”
Argon Construction was sentenced in a Drumheller Court room on Friday, April 21 for one charge under the Occupational Health and Safety Code.