Government fined in horse wrangler’s death

The Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board has fined the Yukon government $5,000 after the investigation into the death of Arnold Johnson.

The Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board has fined the Yukon government $5,000 after the investigation into the death of Arnold Johnson.

Johnson, 57, was wrangling feral horses near Kusawa Lake on January 26, 2014 as part of a team hired by the Yukon government’s agriculture branch.

As the three workers attempted to close the rail fence around the horses, the animals bolted.

One horse charged the fence and became tangled in a metal panel that Johnson was standing behind.

He was knocked to the ground, and the horse rolled over him.

“Mr. Johnson struck his head on the frozen ground and was immediately unconscious,” according to the coroner’s report into the death.

“As a result he sustained serious head injuries and was pronounced deceased on Jan. 27, 2014 at Whitehorse General Hospital as a result of blunt force head trauma.”

The $5,000 fine to the agricultural branch is the largest administrative penalty that the safety board can apply.

“The dollar value of a penalty does not and cannot reflect the loss of life and the pain and suffering of workers and families,” according to the news release.

The fine is for “failing to establish a complete occupational health and safety program,” as required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Dan Sabo, who was contracted by the government to do the work, was also fined $750 in the case. His fine is “for failing to properly assess the risks associated with the job and for not providing appropriate personal protective equipment.”

Yukon’s coroner has also investigated the death, and recommended that anyone wrangling horses in the future wear a helmet.

The purpose of the horse wrangling program is to keep feral horses away from highway right of ways, where they can pose a safety concern.

The operation was suspended after Johnson’s death.

Agriculture director Tony Hill said today that the program may be reinstated if the government can determine what exactly needs to be done to meet safety requirements, and the program is deemed to have a continued public benefit.

Both the agriculture branch and Sabo may appeal the WCB’s ruling within 21 days.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

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