Mother of teen who died at work 'astounded' by $8,400 fine to employer | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Mother of teen who died at work 'astounded' by $8,400 fine to employer

Brendan Stokes was killed on June 29, 2018 when he was working for Kamloops Tirecraft.
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June 20, 2020 - 6:30 AM

Two years after her son died in a preventable workplace accident, a Kamloops mother says her heart has been broken again.

Kara Stokes says she was shocked when she heard the details of the WorkSafeBC investigation, particularly the amount Kamloops Tirecraft was fined.

“It has started a complete upheaval in my whole family. We’re all just astounded at how small of a fine they got for... the death of my son,” Stokes says.

On June 29, 2018, her son Brendan Stokes, 19, was cleaning a wheel hub on a Caterpillar wheel loader which was suspended by a hydraulic jack. The loader fell off the jack and onto the teen, killing him.

A WorkSafeBC investigation found the company had several safety violations, and they were fined $8,403.52.

“To find out yesterday that it was an $8,400 fine for the loss of a life, it dropped my jaw,” Stokes says. “Monetarily there’s no number in my head that they should be fined, but $8,400 seems like peanuts.”

Stokes says the WorkSafeBC investigation wasn’t the only one that disappointed her. The Kamloops RCMP was also investigating the accident and contacted her shortly before Christmas to tell her they had closed the file.

“They were investigating for negligence,” Stokes says. “They, oddly enough, found no negligence which is why I’m currently awaiting a police report and then we'll figure out how to go about reopening the case.”

Stokes says she now also plans to dispute the case with WorkSafeBC. According to communications officer with WorkSafeBC, a family member can request a review if they disagree with the penalties. The communications officer also explained that a party requesting a review should do so within 45 days of the notice. Although WorkSafeBC decision was imposed on April 2, 2020, Stokes says she only found out about it a few days ago, though WorkSafeBC says she may still be able to request a review under special circumstances.

“I was very upset to see seven (WorkSafeBC) violations that had clearly happened involving multiple employees, because their training wasn’t done properly and there was issues with all of their equipment and that affects not just one person in that company, it affected everybody who worked there.”

Some of the violations revolved around proper equipment usage and there were repeat violations regarding training and supervision of new employees. A lack of orientation and training, as well as lack of documentation of such training, is one of the violations Stokes wants to see improved.

Kamloops Tirecraft declined an interview but sent out a media release about the incident.

"Our team talks about Brendan often as we continue to grieve together. It has been the most difficult situation I have ever dealt with and I can only imagine the pain his family and friends continue to go through," says Graham O'Connor, manager of Kamloops Tirecraft in the release.

O'Connor states in the release that Kamloops Tirecraft has been working to ensure compliance with safety regulations. O'Connor states they have updated safety manuals and training protocols to meet WorkSafeBC standards, and all off the road tire technicians have completed a Tire Industry Association training certification. The release also states the company plans to launch a scholarship program in memoriam of Brendan, and will encourage fundraising efforts from Tirecraft locations across the country.

Stokes says her son had only worked there for a number of months and was one of several relatively new employees. Despite that, she says he was sent to work on jobs alone that he was not qualified to do.

“I found out afterwards in his phone, going through his personal possessions, that they had actually sent him on a repair by himself, which he’s not a ticketed oversize tire repair person," Stokes says. "So, yeah. It was obviously a lot of missteps that were happening in the company.”

She's not alone in her concerns. More than 2,800 people have signed a petition "demand(ing) higher penalties" for Tirecraft. Stokes says she is going to dispute the WorkSafeBC and RCMP investigations but in the meantime, she wants to make sure other young workers are protected.

“To Brendan and young workers in general, when somebody’s eager and wanting to learn and is taking a step in a new career, it really, really is the responsibility of the person who is trained and knowledgeable in that field - especially the trades because they’re dangerous - that you’re giving the proper skills and the proper equipment to make sure that the workplace is safe.”

To sign the petition, click here.

— This story was updated at 4:05 p.m. on Friday, June 19, 2020 to add a statement from Kamloops Tirecraft.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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