Lessons to be learned from recent worker deaths

Two recent deaths in the territory were completely preventable, according to preliminary investigations into the incidents.

Two recent deaths in the territory were completely preventable, according to preliminary investigations into the incidents.

On September 11, Jimmy Conklin was killed when his loader stalled and rolled while working at his placer mine near Dawson.

And on October 19, 20-year-old Paul Wentzell was killed at Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine Mine when he was hit by a truck that wasn’t properly parked.

The Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board released its preliminary findings yesterday.

This is the first time the board has released information like this, according to director of occupational health and safety Kurt Dieckmann.

“We want to get the message out so that people can take a look around their workplaces and see if the same conditions exist that caused these incidents,” he said.

“In the Yukon, these types of incidents are way too common – they happen way too often.”

Conklin was killed while feeding gravel into a sluice box at his placer mine on Dominion Creek.

The Michigan 175B loader was an old model that was not equipped with a rollover protection system and had faulty brakes.

He drove the loader up a ramp and was about to dump the gravel onto a “grizzly” separator when the engine stalled.

The stalled loader rolled down the ramp backwards.

The 60-year-old placer miner tried to steer the vehicle without power, but ran into a gravel bank at the bottom of the slope.

This caused the loader to roll onto its cab, crushing Conklin inside.

The health and safety board reminds all employers and workers to ensure their equipment is in safe condition.

If braking systems are not working, or equipment doesn’t have rollover protection systems, it should not be used on the site.

Wentzell was driving a pickup through the Wolverine Mine when he came upon a piece of equipment that was in his way.

He stopped the truck, put on the emergency brake and hopped out to move the equipment.

However, he left the truck in neutral and did not engage the parking brake.

The emergency brake alone could not hold the truck from rolling down the 15 per cent decline.

It hit the young worker from behind and crashed into the second piece of machinery, 20 metres away from where it was originally parked.

The resulting internal injuries killed Wentzell.

The health and safety board reminds workers operating standard transmission vehicles to leave them in first gear or reverse when parking on a slope.

Automatic transmission vehicles should be placed in park.

Chocking the tires when parked on a steep slope is another way to prevent rolling.

The preliminary findings also reminded employers they are required to provide employees with proper training and instruction on the work they are performing.

These are the preliminary findings of the investigations into the two deaths and only look at the direct causes.

“But when you look at incidents like these, there are always underlying causes,” said Dieckmann.

“We’ll look into what allowed those conditions to exist in the first place – so we look at training, we look at maintenance … we look at a whole bunch of different factors that led to these incidents.

“I believe firmly that all injuries are preventable.”

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com