April 22nd, 2018

Charges laid 2 years after worker death

By Collin Gallant on December 13, 2017.


cgallant@medicinehatnews.com
@CollinGallant

Two years after a fatal workplace accident in Medicine Hat, a national contractor has been charged with five counts of failing to provide a safe work plan and environment.

Alberta’s ministry of labour confirms Tuesday that Aluma Systems has been now served with proper notice that Occupational Health and Safety investigators have laid the charges.

Keith Sykes, a 49-year-old insulator and father of three, was working for Aluma on an ammonia tank at the CF Industries fertilizer facility on Dec. 7, 2015. According to an industry bulletin at that time, a mobile man-lift struck a valve, filling the room with noxious gas.

Sykes died as a result and another worker was taken to hospital, but was released later that day.

The Medicine Hat News reported last weekend the case was approaching a two-year deadline that investigators have to lay charges after workplace accidents.

Sykes’s son, Kyle, told the News last week he felt the process was taking too long and was frustrated with a seeming lack of progress.

He said Tuesday he was pleased the investigation was proceeding to the next phase.

“It’s taken a lot of stress off,” said Kyle Sykes on Tuesday Morning. “But it does open up a lot of new things.”

Alberta Labour ministry officials said last week the case was considered “open.”

They say this week charges were filed Nov. 30, 2017 — one week before the deadline — but it is policy to not confirm charges until the party has been officially served.

Officials with Aluma Systems, a North American industrial services provider, did not return calls to its Calgary and Edmonton locations seeking comment.

The five counts include failing to ensure safety of both workers, failing to eliminate an identified hazard, put a safeguard in place or repeating a risk assessment when the work process changed.

The charges have not been proven.

Each carries a maximum fine of $500,000 or six-month imprisonment, or a combination of both.

“Judges have fairly wide latitude in OHS matters,” said Alberta Labour ministry spokesperson Trent Bancarz.

The first scheduled court appearance is set for Jan. 26.

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