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Companies charged after trench incident buries worker in 2014

A Canmore construction company and a subcontractor from B.C. face multiple Occupational Health and Safety charges in provincial court two years after a workplace accident occurred near Dead Man’s Flats.
Emergency service personnel tend to an injured worker after he was buried entirely for more than three minutes near Dead Man’s Flats in 2014. The man suffered serious
Emergency service personnel tend to an injured worker after he was buried entirely for more than three minutes near Dead Man’s Flats in 2014. The man suffered serious injuries when the trench he was working on collapsed.

A Canmore construction company and a subcontractor from B.C. face multiple Occupational Health and Safety charges in provincial court two years after a workplace accident occurred near Dead Man’s Flats.

The incident involved a trench being excavated to connect a water main from the Town of Canmore to Dead Man’s Flats collapsing and burying a worker in June 2014.

Bremner Engineering of Canmore and V.J. Bishop Excavating of Invermere were both charged recently by the Crown prosecutor’s office with several breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety act in Alberta.

Richard Bremner, owner of Bremner Engineering and Construction Ltd., declined to comment on the charges as they are before court. Tyson Dahlem, lawyer for V.J. Excavating, also declined comment, as did officials from Occupational Helath and Safety.

“Because the case is before the courts, there is not a lot that we can say,” wrote Alberta Labour director of communications Andrew Hanon in an email.

Bremner Engineering is charged with three breaches of section 3(3) of the act that every supplier shall ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable for the supplier to do so, that any tool, appliance, or equipment that the supplier supplies is in safe operating condition.

The fourth alleged breach of the act is that the company as the prime contractor failed to ensure subcontractors on a work site were made aware of any existing or potential work site hazards that may affect that employer’s workers.

V.J. Bishop Excavating Ltd. is charged under two sections of the act: that every employer shall ensure, as far as reasonably practicable for the employer to do so, the health and safety of workers engaged in the work of that employer and an employer must stabilize the soil in an excavation by shoring or cutting back.

In addition to the two companies, Vincent John Bishop was individually charged with breaching section 2(2)(a) of the act – that every worker shall, while engaged in an occupation, take reasonable care to protect the health and safety of the worker and of other workers present while the worker is working.

On June 21, 2014 emergency crews responded to a construction site near Dead Man’s Flats after a 32-year-old male employee of the excavating company was buried in a trench that collapsed for several minutes. The worker had entered a straight-cut trench that was about 3.9 metres deep when part of it collapsed, according to OHS spokesperson Lauren Welsh at the time.

The man’s coworkers used a backhoe to get him out of the ground and when emergency crews arrived he was breathing, but with serious injuries. Alpine Helicopters responded to the scene and airlifted the injured construction worker to Foothills Hospital in Calgary.

A stop work order was issued at the time for both companies while investigators looked into the matter. OHS had two years after a workplace accident to file charges.

The charges will return to Canmore Provincial Court on Sept. 14, however, the legal process is expected to be a long and complicated procedural matter with more than 2,800 pages of disclosure provided by the Crown at the end of June.


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