Crews on the scene of a construction accident in Garrison Crossing on March 11, 2016. (Greg Laychak file/Black Press)

Crews on the scene of a construction accident in Garrison Crossing on March 11, 2016. (Greg Laychak file/Black Press)

BC Federation of Labour says accountability needed in Chilliwack workplace death

WorkSafeBC reports on March 2016 concrete pumper truck collapse that killed 24-year-old worker

When Sebastian Gomez Obando and Gerson Alvarado went to work on a construction site in Chilliwack on March 11, 2016, their wives and children likely thought it would be a day on the job like any other.

But when a faulty piece of equipment led to a concrete pumping truck to tip over, crushing the two men, lives were shattered. Alvarado suffered a broken torso, spinal cord damage, lung trauma and broken leg and ankle.

Obando was killed, one of 144 workers who died on the job in British Columbia in 2016.

A tragedy and one for which no blame was laid. That absence of fault points to a pervasive problem in the province, according to BC Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger.

“No one was found responsible for this death and yet clearly the report shows there was faulty equipment,” Lanzinger said in an interview.

“We say, when these kinds of things happen, employers have to be held accountable. To say we aren’t really holding anyone to account when someone dies, a person who had a family, who had children. I see these cases every week, of workers who die and we so rarely hold employers to account.”

A WorkSafeBC report obtained by The Progress through a freedom of information request concluded that a manufacturer’s defect was to blame for the collapse of the concrete pumper truck that killed Obando, a 24-year-old concrete placer, and catastrophically injured Alvarado, the 26-year-old foreman.

It was March 11, 2016 when the KC’s Pumping Services truck was in position at the 53-unit townhouse project in Garrison Crossing with the boom fully extended. At approximately 7:40 a.m., the front right outrigger of the truck failed, and the boom came down, crushing the two men.

WorkSafeBC began an investigation into the incident as soon as it happened. The final report was issued March 16, 2017.

As part of the investigation by WorkSafeBC, a metallurgical analysis was done on the collar plate that fractured causing the 2008 concrete pumper truck to tip over. The analysis found the piece of metal, which came from South Korea, did not meet any North American standards for steel. The manufacturer and distributor of the concrete pumper truck was MIK Tech Ltd. located in Langley.

The low fracture toughness was determined to most likely be caused from improper heat treatment by the steel manufacturer. Several welding defects were also found in the collar plate. The report concluded that a four-millimetre-deep crack had developed within 48 hours after the welding process.

“This initial crack, in combination with the extremely low level of fracture toughness of the collar plate, resulted in the collar plate’s failure at the time of the incident,” according to the report prepared by lead investigator Gary Anderson.

In the “health and safety actions” section of the report, WorkSafeBC published a bulletin with a reminder to the concrete pumping industry to: follow manufacturer’s instructions for operating and maintaining outriggers and booms on concrete pumper trucks; regularly inspect all welds and stress points on outriggers and booms; and position outriggers according to manufacturer’s instructions and based on soil stability.

The prime contractor, Algra Brothers Development Ltd., was issued a stop work order at 5:30 p.m. on March 12. To achieve compliance the order stated that an engineer had to assess the site and determine the extent of the damage and safe work procedures needed to be put in place.

“The employer must ensure that each building and temporary or permanent structure in a workplace is capable of withstanding any stresses likely to be imposed on it,” the order read. This was complied with and the stop-work order was cancelled on March 14, 2016 at 11 a.m.

There is no blame attributed in the report and no further enforcement of any rules or laws recommended, something that perplexes Lanzinger.

“I’m not sure why we let employers and manufacturers off the hook,” she said, comparing the situation to a charge of criminal negligence causing death if a driver of a vehicle killed someone on the road.

So who should be held accountable in the Chilliwack case?

“By the [WorkSafeBC] rules, it should be the employer,” Lanzinger said. “But I also say the manufacturer bears some responsibility.”

In response to a question of why no finding of fault came in the report, a spokesperson for WorkSafe BC said, in part, that employers in the province “are required by law to safeguard the health and safety of their workers.”

WorkSafeBC senior manager of media relations Trish Chernecki said penalties are imposed on employers who fail to take precautions to prevent injuries and who do not comply with regulations.

“Please note that penalties help make workplaces safer, but they never make up for workers’ work-related illnesses, injuries, or deaths,” she said via email.

And while there was no finding of fault in the case of Obando and Alvarado, even where there is fault, Lanzinger insists employers get slaps on the wrist.

“In many cases the employer is found to be negligent and issued a fine,” she said, adding that even repeat offenders are treated lightly.

“Why are we not shutting these people down?”

Not only did WorkSafeBC not place blame in the Chilliwack incident, there was no order for an immediate inspection of all booms produced by the manufacturer.

“I would say, we just had a worker die, why aren’t we inspecting the booms to see what happened?” Lanzinger asked.

Regarding the concrete pumper truck manufacturer, Chernecki responded that WorkSafeBC does not have the jurisdiction to impose administrative penalties for manufacturer deficiencies.

There were 144 workplace deaths in B.C. in 2016. On Feb. 21 of this year, a 21-year-old worker fell approximately 40 feet off a tilt-up structure under construction at the Bailey Landfill in Chilliwack.

The WorkSafeBC investigation into his death is ongoing.

April 28 was the Day of Mourning in B.C. for workers who died due to work-related incidents

• In 2016, there were 144 work-related deaths in B.C.

• 85 were due to occupational disease, mainly from exposure to asbestos decades ago

• 59 resulted from traumatic injury, including 22 from motor-vehicle incidents (MVIs).

In 2016, the highest numbers of work-related deaths by work sector:

• 30 – construction

• 25 – manufacturing

• 25 – transportation and related industries

• 19 – public administration

• 14 – primary-resources sectors

Work-related deaths from occupational disease increased from 41 percent of all deaths in 2006 to 57 percent in 2016.

– Source: WorkSafeBC


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

WorkSafeBC has concluded a manufacturing defect was to blame for a concrete pumper truck collapsing and killing a worker on a Garrison Crossing construction site on March 11, 2016. (Paul J. Henderson file/The Progress)

WorkSafeBC has concluded a manufacturing defect was to blame for a concrete pumper truck collapsing and killing a worker on a Garrison Crossing construction site on March 11, 2016. (Paul J. Henderson file/The Progress)

Just Posted

It remains to be seen how tourism dollars announced this week will help in White Rock. (Sterling Cunningham file photo)
White Rock officials question if tourism relief will come soon enough

For business, budget ‘feels more like a placeholder,’ says chamber head

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
South Surrey, White Rock MLAs call Tuesday’s provincial budget ‘disappointing’

MLAs Stephanie Cadieux and Trevor Halford say residents are getting less for more

Memorial for Travis Selje on 64th Avenue in Cloverdale, west of 176th Street. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Epilepsy-defence driver found not guilty in crash that killed Surrey teen Travis Selje

Accused testified she has no recollection of the crash and believes she had an epileptic seizure that caused the collision

(File photo)
Three young girls followed while walking home from school, Surrey police say

RCMP say suspect took off after girls went into nearby store for help

Black smoke rises above Highway 17 in Surrey on Thursday. (Fraser Valley Road Report Facebook)
Fire sends thick black smoke above Surrey industrial area

Firefighters say blaze burning just off of Tannery Road and Highway 17 in Surrey

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Firefighters carry equipment from the scene of Monday’s Willoughby fire. The April 19, 2021 blaze turned the Alexander Square development at the corner of 208th Street and 80th Avenue to rubble. (Rob Wilton/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley Fire: The aftermath of the inferno

The scene remains active as investigators work to determine a cause

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Most Read