Fines Are Not Enough! Grieving Families Deserve Criminal Investigation of Workplace Deaths

TORONTO, Jan. 20, 2016 /CNW/ - A $300,000 fine imposed on a Northern Ontario mining company following a workplace fatality shows more must be done to ensure criminal investigations are considered first and foremost when a worker is killed on the job, the United Steelworkers (USW) says.

Lac Des Iles Mines Ltd. has been fined $300,000 for violations of health and safety laws in the death of miner Pascal Goulet on July 10, 2014, at the company's mine north of Thunder Bay.

Goulet, 38, was killed instantly when he was struck by a run of muck, or rock. Less than five months earlier, one of Goulet's co-workers was seriously injured in another incident at the mine, which also resulted in a fine against the company for health and safety violations. Goulet, a USW member, is survived by his wife Melanie and their two young daughters.

"For the grieving families, fines are not enough. Justice has not been served if a worker's death is not investigated at the outset as a potential criminal case," said USW Ontario Director Marty Warren.

"The Westray Act that was finally passed into law in 2004 after a decade of lobbying is supposed to hold employers criminally accountable for workplace death and injury. But there have been more than 10,000 workplace deaths since the law was passed, and only one manager has received a prison sentence," Warren noted.

"Clearly, there is more work to do to ensure the Westray Act is enforced when a worker is killed on the job. Police and Crown attorneys must be trained and empowered to investigate and prosecute workplace death and injury as they would any other potential crime scene."

Last week an Ontario judge imposed a 3½-year prison sentence on a Metron Construction manager found guilty of criminal negligence in the 2009 deaths of four workers. The sentence, currently under appeal, is the first such penalty since the Westray Act was passed 12 years ago.

The USW is continuing to build public and political support for its national campaign, Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law. The campaign urges federal, provincial and territorial governments to provide better training and direction for police, health and safety officers and Crown prosecutors for the investigation of workplace deaths.

The USW campaign has received endorsements from municipalities and organizations across Canada. Federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers issued a joint communiqué last year, promising to further examine the issue.

Warren also called for an overhaul of Workplace Safety and Insurance regulations to provide greater compensation for surviving spouses and children of workers killed on the job.

"The public needs to be aware that fines imposed by courts don't go to the surviving families and that the workers' safety and insurance system does not adequately compensate families for their losses of income and benefits," he said.

"In addition to the lifelong devastation of losing a loved one, surviving spouses and children often suffer serious, long-term financial hardship due to the failings of the existing system."

www.StopTheKilling.ca

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information: Marty Warren, USW Ontario Director, 416-243-8792, mwarren@usw.ca; Sylvia Boyce, USW Health and Safety Coordinator, 905-741-9830, sboyce@usw.ca; Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca;

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