The United Steelworkers union (USW) says charges laid against a New Brunswick employer under the Westray Law should have been applied long before now, but are still a warning to other employers who believe they cannot be held criminally accountable for workplace death and injury.
"This charge of criminal negligence causing death marks a milestone for the Maritimes, where 26 deaths in Nova Scotia led eventually to the Criminal Code amendments known as the ‘Westray Law,’ " said USW National Director Ken Neumann.
"Our union has been fighting across Canada to have this law – which we lobbied hard to have passed 16 years ago – enforced as it should be," Neumann said.
"The Westray Law is about accountability, but its application should lead to prevention," added Marty Warren, USW Director for Ontario and Atlantic Canada. "As long as employers believe they can get away with fines under lesser statutes, such as occupational health and safety laws, then killing workers will remain a cost of doing business. That is morally and ethically a disgrace, and a failure of law enforcement."
Media coverage of the charges against Springhill Construction Ltd. and former supervisor, Jason King, reveals few details in the death of 18-year-old Michael Anthony Henderson at Fredericton’s wastewater treatment facility on Aug. 16, 2018.
No inquest has been held and all that is known is that a construction crew was installing a secondary clarifier (a settling tank where liquid waste is held). The company had earlier been charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act with failure to ensure worker safety at the site.
"We give credit to the Fredericton Police Force for its criminal investigation," said Neumann.
"We hope the evidence ensures prosecution and conviction and will set an example across Canada," added Warren.
For more detailed information on the USW campaign to Stop The Killing, Enforce the Law, visit www.stopthekilling.ca.
Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951
Marty Warren, USW Ontario/Atlantic Director, 416-243-8792
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, firstname.lastname@example.org