Prevention System Updates

Alberta court issues record $2.4 million fine

Release Date:  Jul 20, 2012

Two related development companies have been handed fines of more than $2.4 million for unsafe working conditions that led to the death of a contract truck driver. The owner of the two companies still faces 10 charges under Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Randy Williams, 47, was killed in February 2008 when a 15-metre-high wall of dirt and rock collapsed at a Calgary condominium development. Williams was on site to haul away dirt, rocks and debris from a construction pit. When a worker warned Williams that the wall was about to collapse, he got into his truck to move it. However, he was too late. Williams and the vehicle were crushed in the collapse.

During sentencing, Provincial Court judge Paul Mason said the incident was something you might have expected in a third world country, but not from a company in Calgary.

After sentencing, Crown prosecutor Allison McGill told the media that the collapse “was a situation that could have easily been avoided if the companies had properly shored up the wall of the pit. The danger was highly foreseeable that if anything was to happen, it was the wall to collapse. Perhaps it was short of criminal negligence, but in standards these cases are held to, it's about as negligent as you can get."1

McGill also said both companies had cut corners to complete the project and had known of the dangers associated with the improperly shored-up wall for two months.

Fine uncollectable

Both companies declared bankruptcy in March 2010, which means the province will be unable to collect the fine. “We knew early on the chances of collecting from these companies were slim, due to their declaration of bankruptcy,” said Barrie Harrison, a spokesperson for Alberta Occupational Health and Safety. “But, we thought it was important to prosecute because we want people in Alberta to know that we take workplace violations seriously.”

1 These and other quotes are drawn from Daryl Slade’s June 5, 2012 article Calgary Herald article, “Calgary family hopes huge $2.4M fine sends message to construction companies.