Inuvik company fined $100K for safety breach after death of 19-year-old Australian

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Inuvik company fined $100K for safety breach after death of 19-year-old Australian

A Northwest Territories judge has ordered Inuvik's Allen Services & Contracting Ltd. to pay $100,000 after the workplace death of David Vinnicombe.

David Vinnicombe, a 19-year-old from Australia, was working for Allen Services in Inuvik in June 2016 when a piece of heavy equipment he was operating rolled and killed him.

Allen Services and a company supervisor originally faced nine charges under the territory's Safety Act, but pleaded guilty in October to one charge: failing to ensure that all workers are sufficiently and competently supervised. As part of the plea deal, the remaining eight charges were withdrawn.

In December, lawyers for both sides recommended a $100,000 fine. The maximum fine available under legislation is $500,000.

In his decision, Judge Garth Malakoe said he agreed with the fine, seeing as Allen Services is a relatively small company that brings in about $1 million each year.

Malakoe also said the company has no prior charges under the Safety Act and showed remorse. Allen Services has instituted company-wide training and updated safety policies since Vinnicombe's death.

Parents call for inquest

Vinnicombe's aunt and his father have been to the N.W.T. twice in the last two years to attend ceremonies honouring David.

During those visits, his aunt accused the territorial government and the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC) of keeping the family in the dark.

In a written statement to CBC on Tuesday, David's parents Rene and Robbie Vinnicombe said the court proceedings have done little to stop an accident like this from happening again.

"Apart from some money exchanging hands, no learnings have come to light to prevent another death under similar circumstances. The largely unsuccessful prosecution of Allen Services is a direct reflection on the performance of the Crown and WSCC," the parents wrote.

"A coroner's inquest is the last resort. Surely something good can come from our beautiful boy's life. If not, then future generations will be the lesser for it and ultimately everyone is a loser."    

Judge Malakoe said if Vinnicombe had been wearing his seatbelt he most likely would have survived the accident.

His supervisor at the time, Brian McCarthy, was not on site at the time of the accident. In 2017, McCarthy told the court he didn't recall telling Vinnicombe he had to wear a seatbelt, though there is a sticker in the machine that warns of rollovers and to wear a seatbelt.

Vinnicombe had no formal training operating the road packing machine — a "packer" — he was using that day, although he did have about 150 hours of experience in the driver's seat.

Malakoe said if a supervisor had been on site, they perhaps would have told Vinnicombe to put on his seatbelt.

Allen Services declined to comment on the judge's decision.

The company has until December 2018 to pay the $100,000 fine.