North of 60 Petro failed to report fall

North of 60 Petroleum failed to report in January that one of its workers had fallen and fractured his pelvis until five days after the accident. The injury was publicized by the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board last month.

North of 60 Petroleum failed to report in January that one of its workers had fallen and fractured his pelvis until five days after the accident.

The injury was publicized by the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board last month as one of the most serious accidents to happen so far this year. But the name of the company was withheld.

The company’s identity was dug up by Yukon News through an access to information request filed with the board. Documents obtained also reveal the company was fined $1,000 for failing to report a serious injury to a safety officer.

On January 15, the worker went to deliver fuel to a local contractor’s worksite. Fuel hose in hand, he climbed a metal ladder and clambered along a catwalk, which had no guardrails.

The worker lost his balance while attempting to place the fuel nozzle in the tank and fell approximately two metres, fracturing his pelvis as he hit the frozen ground.

North of 60’s management were notified by radio about the injury shortly after it occurred, according to the safety board’s inspection report. Employers are expected to immediately report serious accidents.

Yet the company waited until January 20 to report the accident, one day after the worker made a claim.

General manager Sharon Ness declined to comment.

Expect more scofflaw companies to be outed soon. At the end of June, the safety board will begin releasing a monthly list of companies it has fined.

Up until now the safety board has protected the names of offenders, based on the reasoning it’s better to quietly work with employers to improve their safety records rather than publicly shame them. But carrots haven’t worked, so the safety board is now reaching for a stick.

“It affects all of us when people are breaking the law and getting killed at work,” said Mark Hill, the board’s communications officer.

As of Thursday, 507 workers had been injured this year. “It’s a little higher than last year, but there are fewer people working,” said Hill. “The injury rate is up 14 per cent from last year.”

The forthcoming fine list may include some of the highest-profile workplace injuries from 2009 and 2010, which were exempt from the News’ access to information request because the safety board is still considering the possibility of prosecution or additional fines.

Chief among these cases are the deaths of two workers at Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine Mine near Ross River.

On October 19, a 20-year-old worker died of internal injuries after he was crushed between a pickup truck and another piece of heavy machinery. The worker had failed to set the truck’s parking brake. However, the vehicle’s emergency brake also failed to hold, according to a preliminary report by the safety board.

And on April 25, a 25-year-old worker was killed by a partial tunnel collapse at Wolverine. The tunnel had been widened shortly before the collapse. But the load-bearing supports of metal mesh and concrete were never beefed-up to accommodate the wider tunnel, according to the preliminary safety report, so it eventually gave way to the wet, crumbly rock.

For now, the identities of at least two other companies responsible for serious workplace accidents in 2009 remain unknown.

On July 13, a worker was crushed between two pieces of heavy machinery and seriously injured near the Whitehorse sewage lagoon. He was using an auguring machine to clean out a pipe.

The augur tip was spinning at a high speed when the machine jammed. Pent-up torque tipped the machine. The operator fell from the machine’s cabin and became pinned between it and a nearby backhoe.

Safety inspectors would later conclude the augur tip was too small for the pipe, resulting in the subsequent jam. They also found the augur had no safety guard and that the machine was operating at too high a speed.

On November 15, a pedestrian walked on to a construction site in Teslin and stepped on a tarp, not realizing that there was a large excavated hole underneath. The resulting fall would cause serious internal injuries. There was no fence around the worksite nor any barriers surrounded the covered excavations.

No fines have yet been issued for any of these cases.

“We’re in the process of wrapping them up,” said Kurt Dieckmann, the board’s director of occupational safety. He wouldn’t say whether prosecution is planned against any of the companies.

In May, Sidhu Trucking was convicted in territorial court for jeopardizing public safety with the botched blasting that resulting in rocks raining down on Lobird trailer park in 2008.

The blast threw rocks weighing as much as 22 kilograms more than 200 metres. A shed was demolished, one large rock came crashing into a trailer’s living room and a resident had to dive for cover, but nobody was hurt.

The company, along with the Yukon government, which hired the firm, and supervisor William Cratty have not yet been sentenced.

Inspection reports obtained since January 2009 show many companies haven’t respected warnings issued by the safety board.

Last summer, the safety board started a “zero tolerance” push to ensure workers wear property safety equipment, including fall restraints. Yet inspectors continue to catch employers flouting the law.

On April 20, Universal Renovations was fined $2,000 after four of its workers were found installing a gutter to a building without safety precautions. The workers stood on a narrow, insecure platform without a guardrail, leaving little to prevent them from falling to the sidewalk below.

On April 8, an inspector watched as two workers with Cardinal Contracting stood on the first storey roof of a Lambert Street house to chip stucco from the second storey’s outer wall. They stood within two metres from the edge. Neither wore a fall arrest.

When the inspector asked the men to come down, the workers responded that they couldn’t, because their scissor lift was out of gas. Their foreman was inside the building and couldn’t hear them calling him.

The inspector looked inside and found the foreman using a saw without protective equipment. He explained he must have forgotten to don his hardhat and hearing protection after lunch, despite safety posters that reminded him to do so posted at the entrance.

As a worker manually lowered the scissor lift, hydraulic fluid began to spew from the machine. In the end, the company was fined $500.

On March 12, Justin Saunders of Superior Roofing and Renovations was fined $50 working on the roof of the Whitehorse Medical Clinic without fall protection.

And on July 17, 2009, Skylight Painting was fined $550 after a worker was spotted on a boom lift without a fall arrest, and without the boom operator nearby.

Construction workers face many other safety risks. Electrocution is one.

On October 4, Skookum Asphalt was fined $250 after a backhoe boom came into contact with a power line, placing workers at risk of electrocution. The machine was being unloaded from a tractor trailer in Haines Junction at the time of contact.

Placer mining is another risky occupation, as illustrated by the death of a 65-year-old man who died working his claim on September 11 when his loader rolled and crushed him.

Over the past year, inspectors have found a spate of placer operators using disc grinders without safety guards, uncertified cranes and ungrounded electrical generators.

Rather than levy a fine, inspectors typically order that this sketchy equipment not be used until it’s fixed to meet safety standards.

Placer operations that received stop-work orders last season are Miles Carlson at Little Blanche Creek, TD Oilfield Services and Alberta Gold Diggers at Gold Run Creek, Tim Coles Enterprises at Canyon Creek, Ralph LaBonte and Bonanza Creek Mining at Bonanza Creek, Tatra Ventures at All Gold Creek, Conklin Mining and Gatenby Enterprises at Dominion Creek, Northern Shoveler Resources at Jackson Hill and HC Mining at Henderson Creek.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.