pipeline death in Quebec

The death of a worker and subsequent injury of another during construction of a pipeline in Montreal last April was preventable and should not have happened, the province’s work health and safety board has said.

The Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail has recommended a fine of $62,000 against Excavations S Fournier in regard to the incident in which 53-year-old Gilles Lévesque was buried under a half-tonne of debris after rock and concrete started falling down on him as he was working in a trench fixing water pipes outside a home in Lachine in Montreal’s west end.

Safety board inspector Jean-Pierre Chevrier has slammed what he describes as a poorly-planned site, saying a number of preventative measures could have stopped the incident from happening.

For one thing, the pile of debris should have been moved away from the trench in which Lévesque was working.

pipeline death in QuebecAlso, vertically erected support beams within the trench could have been supported with a metal casing, and the trench could have been dug on an incline to prevent it from collapsing.

“A metal casing could have been put in the hole to make sure that everything was secure. That was the first thing,” Chevrier says. “The other thing is the soil that was taken from the hole should have been put at least 1.2 metres from the hole, and it was closer than that. It was about one metre.”

In addition to Lévesque, a 43-year-old backhoe driver also had to be pulled out by rescue workers. That worker sustained trauma to both legs after jumping into the trench in an effort to save Lévesque and became trapped up to his waist.

The safety board says the recommended fines, a first offence for the company, related to its failure to provide adequate safety training to its employees and not having a safety plan in place for the site.

By Andrew Heaton