Learning from tragedy
STELLARTON – Reuben Burge chocked up and had to pause to regain his composure as he talked with students at the Nova Scotia Community College in Stellarton Wednesday about an accident at his workplace that claimed the lives of two Colchester county young adults.
Mandi Balagot, 18, of Hilden and Kyle Elliott, 22, of Brentwood, died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning in a poorly ventilated room where a generator was running in July 2009.
Pictou County’s Rotor Mechanical Services, which Burge owns, was fined $ 95,000 in connection to the deaths.
In court, Rotor Mechanical pleaded guilty to three Occupational Health and Safety charges in Pictou provincial court earlier this month, including failing to ensure a Honda generator was installed and operated by the manufacturer’s recommendations; failing to make sure all reasonable efforts were taken to ensure the health and safety of its employee, Elliott; and failing as an employer to take reasonable precautions were taken to ensure the health and safety of Balagot.
As part of the court order, Rotor Mechanical was ordered to make a presentation on the importance of safety.
“It was a Rotor idea and we worked with the crown,” said Andrew Fraser, Rotor’s lawyer who also spoke at the campus Wednesday. “We thought it’d be very worthwhile to have a presentation.”
Some family of the deceased were there as well as students from various departments.
“We wanted to leave the students with some insight into the importance of workplace safety in Nova Scotia,” Fraser said.
Principal Dave Freckleton said he had been in discussion with the Department of Labour for some time and was happy to have it done there.
“Any opportunity we get to emphasize safety to our students, we’ll grab it,” he said. “When you get a real life situation like that especially if they’re not hearing it from the same old folks – they aren’t hearing it from the principal and teachers – and they hear it from lawyers and business people it’s a whole different perspective on the situation.”
The students themselves had positive responses to the presentation.
“It was emotional,” said Donavon MacGillivray, one of the students who attended the session. “It kept a lot of people interested in it, big time. You could see in the crowd people were paying attention.” Andrew Stevens said it helps drive home the message.
“If you don’t do it right you can die.”