November 14, 2019
WINNIPEG - Manitoba Liberals say that a plea deal for a company where a young worker was killed on the job shows that governments and courts aren't doing enough to take workplace health and safety seriously.
Dougald Lamont, MLA St. Boniface, and Jon Gerrard, MLA River Heights, joined Barry Swan, the father of Todd Maytwayashing who was killed on the job at the age of 22 on January 17, 2018, at a media conference Thursday morning to bring attention to his case in an effort to prevent further workplace fatalities.
Swan said the death was preventable if basic workplace health and safety measures were followed.
"No family should ever have to go through something like this," said Swan. "What our family wants is closure and reassurance cases like this won't happen again."
Todd Maytwashing was working for Forbes Bros., a contractor for Manitoba Hydro building the transmission line for the Keeyask Dam. Maytwayashing saw there was a problem with the way steel was loaded on another worker's truck. He went over to help fix the problem when a bundle of steel weighing 500-600 lbs came loose and struck him on the head, killing him.
When Maytwayashing's father, Barry Swan, was told his son was hurt, he and other family members drove all night to get to the accident site. They found a site that had not been secured. Despite the accident having happened the previous day, the family arrived before Occupational Health and Safety inspectors did. It was not clear that Todd was wearing adequate safety gear and wooden dunnage that were supposed to be supporting steel were too short.
It took months of advocacy on Swan's part to get information about what happened to his son. Even now, Swan doesn't have the full story.
While seven charges were laid against the company, the Crown Prosecutor and Defence Lawyer settled on a plea. Instead of a trial, Forbes Bros. is admitting they failed to ensure Todd Maytwayashing's "health and safety", and will pay a fine of $150,000 - all of which will go to the government. The family was never consulted about the charges.
Though the incident happened in a yard owned by Manitoba Hydro, Manitoba Hydro was not charged at all.
This is not the first time Forbes Bros. has faced such serious charges. On June 19, 2017, Jared Moffat and Tim McLean were killed working on a Hydro project in Newfoundland for Forbes Bros., when a tower collapsed. Forbes and a supervisor were charged. Forbes Bros. also experienced a tower collapse in Manitoba, near Gillam, though no one was injured.
Based on worker's compensation claims, over 1,000 Canadians die each year at work.
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said Manitoba needs to take workplace deaths more seriously by enforcing the Federal Westray Act. The Westray Act amended the Criminal Code so corporations and company directors could be held criminally responsible for worker deaths and injuries.
"Courts have a double standard when it comes to holding people responsible for a death that shouldn't have happened. A person will face criminal charges and jail time, but corporations usually only face a fine. We have to do better," said Lamont.
Manitoba Liberals have launched a petition that will be shared with the Federal and Provincial Governments.
Jon Gerrard, Liberal MLA for River Heights, reiterated more needs to be done to prevent incidents like these from ever happening again, "This change should be a priority for any government that is looking to ensure workers are safe in Canada."