Jury deliberating over recommendations in Olivier Bruneau inquest

Olivier Bruneau, 24, was a surveyor with Bellai Brothers Construction. He was working at the bottom of a giant excavation pit when he was struck by falling ice. (Supplied - image credit)
Olivier Bruneau, 24, was a surveyor with Bellai Brothers Construction. He was working at the bottom of a giant excavation pit when he was struck by falling ice. (Supplied - image credit)

The jury at a coroner's inquest into the 2016 death of Olivier Bruneau has begun deliberating over which recommendations they may make to prevent similar work site deaths.

Bruneau, a 24-year-old surveyor from Gatineau, Que., was killed by a chunk of falling ice at the excavation site of the Claridge Icon Tower in Little Italy.

Bruneau's father Christian addressed the jury in his closing submissions. The family is supporting all 18 recommendations submitted by parties with standing at the inquest — those parties include Claridge, Olivier's employer Bellai Brothers Construction, and the Ontario Ministry of Labour.

The family is the lone party that opposes calling Bruneau's manner of death an accident, and it wants the jury verdict to mark the death as undetermined.

"I cannot get my head around the idea that this was not foreseen or expected," Christian said in his closing statement.


He said evidence heard at the inquest showed there were previous incidents where chunks of ice fell in the nine-storey deep excavation pit, including two non-fatal incidents involving workers.

Inquest counsel Jai Dhar said the word accident is appropriate given the evidence, and that it would not minimize Olivier's death or whatever deficiencies found to have contributed to it.

The family submission calls for several new requirements for the labour ministry and builders. Those requirements include: reporting when workers request to move from a work site for safety reasons; reporting "near misses" that could have resulted in critical injuries; and requiring construction safety plans at the outset of a project.

Christian said safety plans have helped reduce workplace fatalities in Australia and Europe.


4 recommendations agreed upon

All parties at the inquest indicated support for four proposed recommendations, which include adding ice to the list of hazards on work sites, as well as developing and implementing guidance on how to identify and address the specific risk.

The Ministry of Labour has raised concerns about increased workload because of some recommendations. Still, ministry lawyer Line Forestier told the inquest it's open to adding falling material to the list of events that have to be reported, regardless of whether a worker is injured.

Two of the 18 recommendations single out Claridge. One would task the Ministry of Labour with reviewing Claridge's health and safety policies, the other would ask Claridge to engage a third party to conduct such a review.

Claridge lawyer Gabriel Edelson spoke against both submissions and said, since Bruneau's death, the developer has hired a company to review safety practices, implemented changes, and have a third party conduct spot-checks.

Both Bellai and Claridge support submissions for the ministry to create an ice hazard awareness campaign for large construction projects, improve the hazard alert system, and create a sub-committee to develop ice management best practices.

The inquest jury does not make a pronouncement on criminal responsibility.

The separate criminal case against Bellai, Claridge and two site supervisors resulted in four guilty pleas.