Con­struc­tion firm fined $80K in death of worker

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - BRE MCA­DAM bm­cadam@post­ twit­ breezy­bremc

Austyn Schen­stead was 19-year­sold, a sports fan full of plans and am­bi­tions when he worked for his fam­ily’s con­struc­tion com­pany, in­stalling sound bar­rier walls in Saska­toon.

He didn’t love the work but got a kick out of his co-work­ers, his mom Re­bec­cah said. Her son wanted to save up some money and planned to travel to Peru with his grand­fa­ther in the near fu­ture.

But on Nov. 30, 2016, Re­bec­cah got news that shook her to her core. Her son had been killed on the job.

“I broke into a mil­lion pieces,” she said, read­ing a vic­tim im­pact state­ment on Thurs­day in Saska­toon provin­cial court.

She spoke dur­ing the sen­tenc­ing of Car­mont Con­struc­tion Ltd., the com­pany her son had been work­ing for when he was crushed by a 3,306-pound con­crete panel. The com­pany was fined $80,000 af­ter plead­ing guilty to fail­ing to make ar­range­ments for the use, han­dling and trans­port of sound bar­rier pan­els in a man­ner that pro­tects the health and safety of work­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to an agreed state­ment of facts, the pan­els were loaded onto a trans­port truck by an­other com­pany and se­cured to a wooden cra­dle. The out­side panel top­pled off the trailer deck when Schen­stead re­moved the last brace.

He was killed instantly. Court heard Schen­stead re­ceived safety train­ing and was do­ing ex­actly what he was trained to do when the ac­ci­dent oc­curred in a back al­ley along the 300-block of Tache Cres­cent. The ma­te­rial in be­tween the pan­els shifted dur­ing trans­porta­tion and the haz­ard sim­ply wasn’t rec­og­nized, Car­mont’s lawyer John Agiori­tis told court.

He said Car­mont got the com­pany that de­signs the pan­els to build a stronger stor­age de­vice af­ter Schen­stead’s death. Car­mont is a small, pri­vate con­struc­tion com­pany; Schen­stead was the step­son of the com­pany’s for­mer di­rec­tor, who is “deeply af­fected” and can no longer work, Agiori­tis said.

The com­pany has had its con­struc­tion safety cer­tifi­cate for a long time, with no prior con­vic­tions over ap­prox­i­mately 30 years, he added.

This proves that one lapse in judg­ment can lead to tragedy, Judge Shan­non Me­tivier said.

She be­gan to cry when de­scrib­ing how Schen­stead’s story af­fected her, say­ing hope­fully, his death will pre­vent fu­ture work­place fa­tal­i­ties.

Re­bec­cah said her son’s death has left her fam­ily emo­tion­ally and fi­nan­cially drained. Her younger chil­dren now feel anx­ious and sad when­ever they drive by a sound wall.

When pre­sent­ing the joint-sub­mis­sion, Crown pros­e­cu­tor Buffy Rodgers said the fine amount is not a value on Schen­stead’s life. It’s about send­ing a mes­sage that “have em­ploy­ers sit up and lis­ten and make their work­places safer.”

Schen­stead would want his fam­ily to stand up for him and the safety of other work­ers, Re­bec­cah told court.

“His life mat­tered, more than any amount of money or job in the world,” she said.

“He had the right to re­turn home safe ev­ery night.”

Court ex­hibit pho­tos show a Car­mont Con­struc­tion truck loaded with the type of sound wall that fell on 19-year-old Austyn Schen­stead in 2016.

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