CPR fined $250,000 over worker's death
Published: October 24th 2008
Source: Ben Gelinas and Alexandra Zabjek, Edmonton Journal

Canadian Pacific Railway was fined $250,000 in a B.C. court Thursday for not properly training an Alberta maintenance man before he was killed by ice he pried from inside a railway tunnel.

Robert Martin, 44, was killed when a 225-kilogram chunk of ice fell on him in the MacDonald tunnel on Dec. 14, 2005.

It was the first time Martin, a Bowden resident, and his co-worker Adam Williams had removed ice in the tunnel connecting Revelstoke and Golden. Martin's usual job was to clear the tracks of snow.

The B.C. provincial court found that Martin and Williams received no instructions on how to remove ice from a railway tunnel.

"The crew approached their task for the day armed with hand tools, their physical strength and their common sense, augmented by whatever training they had prior to December 14, 2005," Justice Douglas Allan Betton wrote in his decision.

The judge noted that ice removal could be a relatively simple task, but the job becomes "more complex and highly dangerous" when workers must take down an ice column that stands five metres high.

The judge dismissed charges that the CPR failed to ensure the workers were aware of work site safety hazards. The judge said there was "a culture of safety awareness or consciousness" at the CPR that would have made workers aware of such risks and would have prompted them to speak up if they felt an assignment was unsafe.

A representative from the union that represented Martin said the $250,000 fine was not enough.

"I don't think they'll learn from it," said Bill Brehl, Teamsters Canada maintenance employees union president. "CP Rail has a safety plan that on paper is second to none. It's very good. There's a lot of time and effort put into developing it. The problem is, for it to work it has to be followed and it has to be followed consistently, and they don't do that."

Following Martin's death, the CPR formalized a risk assessment process for workers tackling ice removal inside tunnels, spokeswoman Breanne Feigel said.

The company also implemented guidelines on how ice should be removed, depending on the height of an ice column.

"Before the court trial was completed, CP already responded to the incident by implementing additional enhancements to make work conditions safer," Feigel said.

The company said it will not appeal the decision.

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