South Surrey resident Aaron Sigmund – an icon for drug recovery in the community – was killed in a workplace accident in July 2009.

Company fined $140,000 in connection to workplace death

A company charged under the Canada Labour Code in connection with the July 2009 death of South Surrey resident Aaron Sigmund has been fined $140,000 in Surrey Provincial Court.

The judgment against Fraser River Pile & Dredge (GP) Inc. – to be paid in six quarterly installments – was rendered March 15, but only posted online this week.

In his reasons for sentence, Judge R.D. Miller noted the company pleaded guilty to failing to install guards, guardrails, barricades and fences on the starboard side of a dredge, “the direct result of which was the death of Aaron Sigmund.”

The 38-year-old died July 9, 2009, when he was crushed by a hydraulic counterweight while working on a routine painting job on a cutter-section dredge.

“He placed himself in an area where he was at risk of being pinned and suffocated by a piece of machinery,” the court document states. “This is, in fact, what happened.”

Sigmund was an icon for drug recovery. Eight years clean and sober at the time of his death, Sigmund’s story of overcoming a heroin addiction helped many in the recovery community in their own battles against drugs and alcohol.

Following news of his death, Surrey Coun. Judy Villeneuve described him as someone who “overcame so many difficulties in his life to turn his life around and become a really responsible citizen and young father.”

In rendering the sentence against Fraser River Pile & Dredge, Miller notes “the corporate defendant was not vigilant in assessing their workplace for safety violations.”

“They are justifiably proud of aspects of their corporate behaviour as regards (to) worker safety, but it was not enough and a good man died.”

Miller also considered immediate steps taken by the company to identify and rectify the deficiencies that led to Sigmund’s death, including co-operating fully in the investigation into what happened.

Noting imposing a monetary penalty in cases where someone has died “always seems to me to be bordering upon disrespect,” Miller said the $140,000 penalty is “a fit sentence.” As well, it was agreed on by Crown and defence counsel, he notes.

The maximum penalty Miller could have imposed was $1 million.

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