B.C. company fined $48k for employee's workplace death

A Vancouver-based contracting group has been fined for violating safety codes after an employee died on the job at a Kamloops B.C. site two years ago — but the penalty has the B.C. Federation of Labour renewing its call for tougher punishment.

Sean Donetz, 45, was standing on a scissor lift when he lost his balance on Nov. 25, 2015, falling about three metres to the concrete floor below.

He died in hospital six days later.

WorkSafe investigators found that a safety chain wasn't in use, a guardrail was missing and that Donetz wasn't wearing personal fall protection gear when he fell.

Onni Contracting Ltd. has been fined nearly $49,000 as a result. An RCMP investigation determined it was an accident and did not recommend criminal charges.

Labour group 'very unhappy'

Irene Lanzinger, president of the BC Federation of Labour, said that's not enough.

"We're very unhappy about it," she told CBC on Wednesday.

"We've seen many cases in B.C. where workers have died and there's not enough consequences for employers."

In B.C., individuals and/or companies can face the following consequences for workplace death or serious injuries:

- Administrative penalties that often end with the company being fined.

- Charges for regulatory offences that can lead to fines or up to six months in jail.

- Criminal negligence charges that could lead to jail time.

The latter is rare in Canada and has never led to prison time in B.C. 

In 2015, criminal charges were laid against a quarry firm and two individuals in relation to the 2007 death of a worker.

Kelsey Anne Kristian, 22, died when she was pinned under a runaway truck that hadn't been parked properly at Stave Lake Quarries in Mission. It was her second day on the job.

A government analysis found that she hadn't been adequately trained and wasn't under proper supervision. 

The case was believed to be the first of its kind in B.C. in which criminal charges were laid against an employer.

BCFL calls for legislation

Lanzinger said the federation was "hopeful" the Kristian case would lead to stiffer penalties, but the company was only fined.

She said the federation is calling on the province to enact legislation that would mandate jail time for employers found guilty of negligence.

Shirley Bond, B.C.'s Labour Minister, said she was "very concerned" about Lanzinger's comments.

"I understand the frustration with the penalty. No penalty will ever adequately reflect the loss of a life," she told CBC News in an email.

""I am very concerned by Ms. Lanzinger's truly regrettable comments around the [Donetz'] accident. I regularly meet with Ms. Lanzinger and she knows the workplace safety system in B.C. as well as I do."

Bond did not comment on Lanzinger's call for legislation.

Since 1990, the rate of work-related deaths due to traumatic injuries has declined by 72 per cent, according to Worksafe BC.

Lanzinger said all deaths — including Donetz' and Kristian's — could've been prevented.

"[The drop] is no comfort to the families who lose their loved one," she said.

CBC News has reached out to Onni Contracting Ltd. for comment.