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Volker Stevin, supervisor convicted after Alberta worker struck, killed by truck while inspecting catch basins

by HR Law Canada

The Alberta Court of Justice has convicted a construction company and a supervisor under health and safety legislation after a worker was struck and killed by a truck on a residential street in Airdrie, Alta.

The case stemmed from an incident on Oct. 2, 2019, where H.A., an employee of Volker Stevin, suffered fatal injuries after being struck by the company-owned Ford F-550 truck. The accident occurred while H.A. and the supervisor — M.O. — were inspecting catch basins at various locations around Airdrie.

The accident happened after the supervisor decided to pull the truck forward because it was blocking a driveway and the resident had come home.

“The Volker Stevin work truck driven by (M.O.) was parked blocking (the resident’s) driveway. (The resident) arrived home and opened his garage door, which resulted in (M.O.) moving the truck forward approximately two metres where it was stopped after having run over (H.A.),” the court said.

The injuries to H.A. were catastrophic. During the proceedings, it was established that both the company and the supervisor neglected crucial safety protocols, specifically failing to ensure safe operating procedures around mobile equipment and inadequate training of employees working in proximity to such hazards.

The court’s findings highlighted significant systemic issues within Volker Stevin’s safety practices, underscoring the company’s failure to establish a clear definition of ‘control zones,’ which are crucial for ensuring safe working distances around equipment.

Moreover, the judge rejected the defense’s argument that the worker’s actions, which led to his positioning near the moving vehicle, were not reasonably foreseeable by the company or the supervisor. The decision underscored the responsibility of employers and supervisors to anticipate potential hazards and take preventive actions accordingly.

“The evidence of (the resident) and (the supervisor) is inconsistent in some respects, but I am satisfied, and find as fact, that the Volker Stevin work truck driven by (M.O.) was parked blocking (his) driveway,” the judge stated, illustrating the events that led to the tragic outcome. This lack of foresight and the subsequent failure to manage the placement of heavy equipment were critical points in the court’s decision.

The judgment detailed that the incident occurred because the truck was used as a “shield” against oncoming traffic without proper safety protocols in place. The court criticized Volker Stevin for not providing clear instructions on safely using the truck in this manner, particularly noting the absence of policies requiring the vehicle to be turned off and the keys removed before work commenced.

The court also highlighted that common safety practices, such as setting up control zones and conducting walk-arounds of the vehicle before moving it, were not followed.

Ultimately, the court convicted Volker Stevin and M.O. of several counts, reflecting the seriousness of their safety violations.

“The OHSA was designed to protect workers while engaged in their employment from a variety of hazards both physical and psychological,” the court said. “The events of October 2, 2019 were tragic not only for (H.A.), his family and friends but also for (M.O.). I have no doubt that if he could change the events of that day he would.”

For more information, see R v Volker Stevin Contracting Ltd., 2024 ABCJ 85 (CanLII).

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