Following two days of hearings on August 9 and 10, a coroner’s jury has determined the death of a Wiikwemkoong man in August 2017 to be accidental, occurring as a result of injuries caused by collapsed roofing trusses at a residential construction site he was working on.
Carl Peltier was working for ProSteel North, based in Wiikwemkoong, at a private residential construction site in Chelmsford when the incident occurred. Mr. Peltier was fatally injured and another worker was wounded when the roof trusses they were installing collapsed on August 21, 2017.
The inquest was held at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre in Little Current, with Dr. Steven Bodley presiding as inquest officer. Inquest counsel included Mathieu Ansell of Sudbury and Caroline Johnson from the Aboriginal Justice Division of the Ministry of the Solicitor General. Investigating officers included Detective Constable (DC) Jason Castle and DC Brad Purvis and inquest officers were DC Marc Fortier and DC Heather Sutherland. Parties with standing included the Peltier family, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MOLTSD) and ProSteel Roofing.
Philomena Savoia, a consultant with more than three decades experience in occupational health and safety, mostly in construction, told the jury that constructors of projects with a value greater than $50,000 must file a Notice of Project which essentially initiates MOLTSD oversight of a project. Ms. Savoia also explained the requirements for an owner, constructor, employer, supervisor and worker under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), including risk assessment and training. Neither a joint health and safety committee nor an employee safety representative were required for this project.
The scope of the project consisted of a garage, approximately 32 x 56 feet, to be used for equipment storage with the upper part of the building to be a loft. On August 21, 2017 the foundation of the structure was complete. According to witnesses, the walls had been erected and had plywood on the exterior. Studs were visible in the interior and the roof was in process of being built with a number of trusses already up and braced.
Mr. Peltier had been on a ladder in the northeast corner of the structure making adjustments to one of the trusses on the roof. Other employees were on the ground inside the structure. Around 3:45 pm a loud cracking sound was heard. At this time, trusses began to topple from the east side to the west side. Mr. Peltier was between two trusses at the time and became pinned between them. Other workers tried to assist but were unable to lift the trusses. A boom truck was used to lift them. First aid and CPR were provided and 911 was called.
Emergency responders did arrive and transported Mr. Peltier to Health Sciences North on Long Lake Road in Sudbury, where he was pronounced deceased at 4:38 pm. GSPS arrived on scene and spoke with workers and Mr. Fournier. The MOLTSD was also contacted. As there was no indication of suspicious or foul play, the MOL carried on with a workplace investigation.
A coroner’s inquest is mandatory for a construction death. The purpose of this inquest was not to determine findings of guilt but to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the death. A number of witnesses, including workers and the owner of ProSteel North, the Ministry of Labour and engineers were questioned about the sequence of events in the truss installation on the project. The goal was to identify questions around the collapse of girders being installed to support a steel roof, and explore the training and engagement of small work crews in an effort to understand what happened, Dr. Bodley told the jury. “By doing so, we may uncover some facts that might help prevent future deaths from steel roof construction.”
The standard of proof in a Coroner’s Inquest is different than in a criminal trial, Dr. Bodley said. “It is based on the balance of probabilities; that is, it does not need to be beyond a reasonable doubt and only needs majority decision, not consensus.”
Recommendations are not required but may be submitted by the jury. Following one and a half days of witness testimony, the jury was sequestered for deliberations, returning with a verdict of accidental death. The jury also made four recommendations.
The first recommendation was that the provincial government and the MOLTSD make a concerted effort to reach out to small construction crews (1 to 5 workers) to assist their employees with their personal obligations to promote safety as laid out in the OHSA and its regulations.
The second recommendation was that the provincial government and the MOLTSD explore the creation of training modules for supervisors and crew members involved in the erection of trusses under OHSA and its regulations.
The jury also recommended that the provincial government and the MOLTSD continue to explore making the complexity of the project instead of the dollar value of the project the prerequisite for the requirement to file a Notice of Project under Section 5 of the Construction Regulation under the OHSA.
Finally, the jury recommended that Professional Engineers Ontario should consider providing specific installation/bracing guidelines with the engineered drawings in regards to the installation of trusses.
Mr. Peltier was 53 years old at the time of his death. He was a cherished father to five children and cherished his eight grandchildren. He was known for “that great smile on his face,” Joyce Levesque, Mr. Peltier’s eldest sister said. “He loved to take extensive walks in the bush and enjoyed the game of horseshoes, watching hockey and working.” Mr. Peltier worked at the Wikwemikong Nursing Home for 10 years and spent two years as a personal care provider for Amikook. He also spent 25 years working for the Wiikwemkoong Housing Authority.
Lori Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Manitoulin Expositor