Forbes Bros. Ltd, an Edmonton-based private contractor, pleaded guilty and was fined $150,000 in provincial court in Thompson Feb. 12 for one count under the Workplace Safety and Health Act of failing to have a safe work procedure in place with respect to dunnage and the loading of trucks.
Six other charges related to the January 2018 workplace death of 22-year-old Todd Maytwayashing of Lake Manitoba First Nation were stayed. Maytwayashing was killed in Manitoba Hydro's Limestone Yard while working on a transmission line from Manitoba Hydro’s Keeyask Generating Station to the Radisson Converter Station.
RCMP said at the time of the accident that Maytwayashing was securing metal on a flatbed truck when it moved in his direction and struck him in a marshalling yard about 45 kilometres from Gillam.
Approximately 25 of Maytwayashing’s friends and family, including his brother Preston Swan and father Barry Swan, attended the trial.
“The load in question here was hanging off the truck,” Preston Swan told the Thompson Citizen in an interview outside the courtroom Feb. 12. “It shifted, and someone on the other side pushed and [pieces of the load] came on him.”
Forbes Bros. Ltd. said in a Feb. 12 press release that Maytwayashing was voluntarily assisting a driver working for another subcontracted trucking company to load a second trailer, which investigation revealed was a common practice among workers employed by multiple companies working on the project. Forbes said Maytwayashing noticed some movement of a steel bundle of powerline tower components and went to push it inward. The truck driver was still securing load straps, which caused movement of the bundle, which led to it falling off the trailer and striking Maytwayashing in the head around 8:50 a.m. Colleagues helped Maytwayashing while waiting for an ambulance from Gillam, which took about 50 minutes to arrive. Maytwayashing was transported to Gillam Hospital around 10:30 a.m. and died about two hours later. A Forbes Bros. spokesperson said no witness statements provided any evidence of anyone pushing the bundles and that the way the load was stacked would have made this impossible.
The Forbes Bros. press release says lawyer Maria Grande apologized on behalf of the company in court.
“The death of Todd Maytwayashing was both unforeseen and terribly tragic,” said Grande, adding that the lives of the friends and family of Maytwayashing were altered forever by the accident and that the company was truly sorry.
“No one could have thought that an innocent voluntary act to assist coworkers would lead to a fatality,” Grande said.
“He had a massive injury that took his life,” said Preston Swan. “All we wanted was justice. We wanted the company to make sure their workplace safety practices are overhauled. Something isn’t right. Something needs to be done.”
In addition to the fine, Forbes agreed to include even more detailed instruction in its employee safety training program about the use of dunnage material to help keep loads in place and has already taken steps to implement this.
Maytwayashing’s death devastated his family.
“It’s killed us,” said Preston Swan, remembering Todd as hard worker who would take the shirt off his back for someone who needed it and a sports lover who excelled at hockey and baseball. “We are never going to be the same. It’s taken up so much of my life.”
The judge said Maytwayashing was a good young worker who could have had a bright future if not for the accident and that the fine imposed was equal to the highest fine ever for an infraction of the Workplace Health and Safety Act resulting in someone’s death.
* This story has been changed from its original version to include information provided by Forbes Bros. Ltd. regading the precise circumstances that led to Todd Maytwayashing's death.