J.D. Irving Ltd. was fined $89,500 in penalties Tuesday for a 2016 workplace accident that killed a Bible Hill man on the job at its lumber mill in Valley, N.S.
Truro provincial court Judge Alain J. Bégin also ordered Irving to pay $55,000 to set up a bursary in the victim Chad Smith’s name for students in the Nova Scotia Community College’s occupational health and safety program.
“Obviously, the $89,500 is meant to punish Irving and to send a message that there are serious consequences to these offences,” Crown attorney Alex Keaveny said in an interview. “But the bursary is also meant to remind students studying in the … program of why they’re studying there — who are they working to protect?”
The sentence was a joint recommendation by the Crown and defence.
Alex Keaveny is Nova Scotia’s first Crown attorney for workplace health and safety prosecutions. (Craig Paisley/CBC)
According to an agreed statement of facts that Keaveny read in court, Smith, 28, was killed on June 27, 2016 when he was struck by a front-end loader while crossing a bridge for vehicles and pedestrians at the sawmill.
The accident happened just moments after he arrived at work. He died at the scene
Guilty plea entered
The case was set to go to trial in May. But about a week before the trial, Irving agreed to plead guilty to one count of violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act that required them to follow the Canadian Standards Association’s rules on lift-truck usage.
“Basically, the standard requires that when at all possible, pedestrians and these vehicles have to be physically separate from each other,” Keaveny said. “And where it’s impossible to keep them physically separate, there have to be clear rules both for the operation of the motorists and for the movement of pedestrians.”
On June 27, 2016, Colchester RCMP responded to the industrial accident at the mill just after 6 p.m.
Robert (Bob) Sellers, Smith’s co-worker, was operating the loader that struck Smith. Sellers was moving bundles of green wood from one side of the yard to another.
Neither Sellers nor another loader operator who had also crossed over the bridge a minute earlier saw Smith, court heard.
Sellers found Smith after the incident and immediately yelled for help. His co-workers attempted first aid and called 911.
Smith’s death was preventable
Both Sellers and Smith were following company policy, Keaveny said.
“Judge Bégin made of a point of saying that Chad Smith’s death was preventable, and that neither Chad Smith nor Bob Sellers were at fault for Chad’s death — it was a failing by J.D. Irving,” Keaveny said.
At the time of the incident, the yard and bridge did not have any barriers to separate pedestrians and lift-trucks anywhere on the site. There were no signs requiring lift-trucks to stop at all intersections and there were no marked crosswalks.
Irving brought in changes
Following Smith’s death, J.D. Irving Ltd. revamped its site walk zone policy and spent more than $100,000 on site improvements.
• Additional safety training.
• A new pedestrians-only bridge.
• Stop signs installed at the bridge.
• New barriers installed to separate vehicle traffic and pedestrians.
“Chad Smith was a valued employee and friend to so many at the sawmill,” said Mary Keith, a spokeswoman for the company.
“Our thoughts remain with his family. We respect the verdict of the court. In the time that has passed since this tragedy we have worked together as a team to improve workplace safety at the mill for the well-being of all.”Read more