Shelburne company pleads guilty to 4 charges in fisherman's death

A Shelburne, N.S., company has been ordered to pay $60,000 after pleading guilty Thursday to four violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the 2017 death of lobster fisherman Jimmy Buchanan.

Buchanan, a 44-year-old married father and grandfather, was working about 50 kilometres southeast of Cape Sable Island when he fell overboard on Jan. 7, 2017.

The crew found Buchanan floating face down in the water after realizing he was no longer on board the vessel, according to an agreed statement of facts presented in Shelburne provincial court.

The crew pulled Buchanan from the water and attempted CPR for about 20 minutes, but he could not be revived.

No life-jacket policy

Little Rye Fisheries Limited didn't require its employees to wear life-jackets, and Buchanan was not wearing one when he fell overboard.

At the time of his death, only one of the five crew members was wearing a life-jacket. And while there were life-jackets on board, they didn't meet health and safety requirements.

The company didn't have a written occupational health and safety policy, "including any written safe work procedures or hazard assessments regarding setting or hauling traps," said the agreed statement of facts.

Little Rye Fisheries Limited pleaded guilty to charges that included:

  • Failing to ensure the use of a life-jacket or personal flotation device or provide other protection to prevent a person from drowning.  
  • Failing to ensure that a life-jacket or personal flotation device was approved by Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard or U.S. Coast Guard and that the jacket was appropriate for Buchanan's weight.  
  • Failing to prepare and review its written occupational health and safety policy.

Family left behind

Buchanan left behind a wife, three children and a granddaughter.

"He loved his family, he did," his brother, Michael Buchanan, told CBC News in January 2017.

"He thought the world of his kids and his wife. He loved to go fishing. He would do anything for anybody. He didn't have the word 'no' in his vocabulary."

The company has been ordered to pay $60,000, including:

  • A $20,000 fine.  
  • A $3,000 victim fine surcharge.  
  • A $5,000 donation to the Nova Scotia Fishing Sector Council to purchase life-jackets or personal flotation devices, which will be used as prizes at fishing safety events.  
  • A $22,000 donation to the council to create a safety video or videos that will raise awareness of using personal flotation devices.  
  • $10,000 to erect billboards near commercial fishing wharves in Lockeport, Shelburne, Cape Sable and surrounding areas. The content is subject to approval by the provincial Labour Department and must include details such as a statement promoting the use of personal flotation devices.
Toni-Ann Morash-Buchanan

Aubrey S. Harding, the president of Little Rye Fisheries Limited, must also make five one-hour safety presentations about the drowning incident and how to prevent similar incidents from happening. He was part of the crew the day Buchanan died.

"To bring a friend and a man in and have to bury him and tell his wife and kids is the most horrific thing you could ever imagine," he said in a March 2017 interview with CBC News.