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Machinery running on graveyard shift the night teen worker died was an anomaly

Bradley Haslam, 18, became entangled in a conveyer belt at Tolko's Lavington mill in June 2013 and died.
October 23, 2014 - 4:30 PM

VERNON - A Tolko employee knew two days in advance machines would be running during the ordinarily quiet graveyard clean-up shift to accommodate extra production, a coroner’s inquiry into the death of a Lumby teen heard Thursday.

Bradley Haslam, 18, became entangled in a conveyer belt at Tolko’s Lavington mill in June 2013 and died. The grade 12 Charles Bloom Secondary student had been working at the mill since March of that year. His family asked he be referred to by his first name throughout the inquest.

Normally, all equipment was turned off when workers like Bradley came to clean the mill at night. Employee Jarret Pereboom, who sits on the mill’s Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee, says he notified Bradley’s crew supervisor, Roger Marshall, equipment would be running longer than usual the night of June 14/15.

Employees on the night shift, many of them teenagers, were not called and asked to come in at a later time, or told to avoid sections of the mill where machines were still operating, Pereboom testified. Instead, they came in on time and workers like Bradley were assigned jobs in the general area where equipment was running, as long as they kept away from the machines themselves.

Another witness, employee Rick Bouthillier, was under the assumption the mill was always shut down when the night crew came to work. Bouthillier, or ‘Boots’ to his workmates, was the communications representative for the safety committee at the time of the accident. He said Bradley’s death was a wake-up call that brought renewed focus to safety at the mill. The committee was already cracking down on safety, filing hundreds of work orders to improve conditions and discussing what could be done better. 

“As tragic as it was, the tragedy accelerated the process,” Bouthillier said.

Since the accident, Bouthillier said Tolko has become an industry leader in terms of workplace safety. Guards were installed around the conveyer belt Bradley was sucked into, though Bouthillier said no safety concerns were ever brought up in relation to that piece of equipment before. He said it was one of the least likely places for someone to get injured. There’s no clear answer to why Bradley ended up entangled in the conveyer belt. His shift supervisor testified he was clear in telling Bradley not to go near the machine until it was shut off. An inspection report by WorkSafe B.C. stated there weren't sufficient guards in place to prevent workers from coming into contact with the machinery. 

Because of the accident, Bouthillier said there’s a new direction not to hire junior workers, who are statistically shown to be more at risk of getting injured. Bouthillier is also in charge of doing daily safety talks at the mill. He said it would be beneficial for WorkSafe B.C. to build its resources and create more safety videos because right now “there’s not a wealth of useable information there.” He said short, condensed videos would be helpful for the daily ‘tailgate’ safety talks.

Employee Colton Thibault testified about the safety training workers receive. He received an orientation to the job after school, went home for a few hours, and returned the same day for his first shift. Bradley was his buddy worker on that first graveyard shift, and they worked in the Number Three Chipper area, where Bradley later died. He couldn’t remember exactly how Bradley went about cleaning the area.

In their orientation, Thibault said workers are trained on performing lockouts. In a lockout, workers use locks to render machinery inoperable, to prevent equipment from accidentally turning on while workers are performing maintenance on or around it. The High Sky Waste conveyer Bradley was found entangled in had not been locked out.

The seven-person jury, made up of six men and one woman, as well as a mandatory two people with a background in the sawmill industry, will be tasked with making recommendations to prevent future tragedies.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infonews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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