July 16th, 2018

Workplace fatality probe continues long after man killed

By Collin Gallant on December 9, 2017.


A workplace fatality probe is still ongoing two years after a Medicine Hat man died while working on an ammonia tank — a timeline that pushes up against a deadline of when any possible charges could be laid.

Alberta Ministry of Labour spokesman told the News Thursday that Occupational Health and Safety investigators still consider the report into the death of Keith Sykes open and ongoing.

The local insulator was killed on Dec. 7, 2015 when he was overcome by an ammonia leak while working for a subcontractor at the CF fertilizer plant in Medicine Hat. A second man was sent to hospital but released that day.

The man’s son, Kyle Sykes, said that he would like the report to be finalized as soon as possible.

“Everyone in the family is very antsy to see it done,” said Kyle Sykes. “I would like to see it finished. It’s been two years.”

Investigators have two calendar years to announce sanctions or compel corrective action when a worker dies while performing their duties.

“There is always a fatality report done and eventually they are made public,” stated Trent Bancarz, of Alberta Labour.

He said there could be an issue of whether the deadline is set from the time of the incident or when OHS officials are informed of the accident, but he further stated he didn’t know specifics.

It’s not unusual for reports to be filed years after the fact or for charges to be announced right at the two-year limit.

However, four other workplace deaths that occurred the same month are already filed in a publicly available database.

In Sykes’ case it’s still not known if any blame will be assigned or if punitive measures are warranted.

Provincial investigators won’t discuss ongoing investigations.

Requests for an interview with Aluma Systems, the subcontractor that employed Sykes, were not fulfilled on Friday.

CF officials had no comment when asked about the investigation on Friday, but have previously said safe operations are extremely important.

Last year, officials stated they were co-operating with the province and were also conducting their own review.

A bulletin posted on Alberta’s worksite safety website describes the local incident in a general notice to construction industry officials.

It describes two men applying waterproofing on a tank from a man-lift when the device reportedly struck a valve coming of the tank. The resulting leak of toxic gas affected both men, who were transported to hospital via ambulance, where Sykes, 49 at the time, died of his injuries.

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