The 14th Avenue worksite where a Sandpiper Contracting worker was killed by a falling excavator bucket. (WorkSafeBC)

$42k fine in fatal incident at Burnaby worksite

WorkSafeBC fined Sandpiper Contracting just under $42,000 after a fatal incident involving a 1,360-kg excavator bucket falling on a worker.

By Dustin Godfrey | January 6, 2022 |5:00 am

A fatal incident at a Burnaby worksite in July 2020 has resulted in a $42,000 fine, with WorkSafeBC finding four violations of the Workers Compensation Act and regulation.

On July 14, 2020, workers with Sandpiper Contracting were laying a sewage pipe in a trench in the street in the 7100 block of 14th Avenue.

Just after 10am, two pipe layers were in a roughly 2.2-metre-wide shoring cage, which was bracing the walls of the trench, according to a WorkSafeBC investigation report obtained by Burnaby Beacon through a freedom of information request.

The operator of an excavator attached a 1,360-kg digging bucket to the machine’s boom, before moving it over the shoring cage with the intention of grabbing a bar in the shoring cage to drag it to the newly dug sewage trench.

As the excavator boom was moved over the shoring cage, the operator uncurled the bucket, and the bucket detached from the machine and fell directly into the shoring cage, hitting and killing one of the pipe layers, according to the WorkSafeBC investigation.

The second pipe layer in the shoring cage was not hit by the bucket.

Safety key not used

In its investigation, WorkSafe found that a safety key intended to lock a wedge bar in place was not used. The safety key is intended to prevent the wedge bar from disengaging with the excavator attachment—in this case, the digging bucket.

“When the wedge bar is not properly engaged with an attachment’s lugs, there is a hazard that the attachment will drop from the excavator, depending on the attachment’s position,” WorkSafe investigator Leanne Thomson wrote in her report.

“In the curled-in position, the attachment will stay in place, but in the curled-out position, the attachment may fall from the coupler, as it did in this incident.”

Thomson wrote that WorkSafe investigators found the safety key inside the cab of the excavator.

Three days after the worker’s death, a third party inspected the excavator and found no defects that would have caused the bucket to disconnect from the machine.

Under a mostly redacted subheading titled “operator competency,” Thomson wrote that work “should not have been conducted without the use of the safety key. Doing so created a hazardous situation and a high risk of a serious incident occurring.”

Thomson also noted that it’s a violation for a supervisor to operate or permit a worker to operate equipment that could cause undue hazards.

Hazard not identified prior to fatal incident

And investigators determined that Sandpiper didn’t have written work procedures for moving the shoring cage. On top of dragging the cage into place, as was the intention, Thomson noted two other ways of moving the cage: lifting it and pulling it with tow cables.

“The process of pulling the shoring cage with the excavator bucket grabbing the spreader bars and workers inside the shoring cage creates a potential overhead hazard,” Thomson wrote.

“If the process of pulling with the excavator bucket was to be used, as it was on the day of the incident, the pipe layers should have exited the shoring cage until the overhead hazard was removed.”

Sandpiper had a “functioning health and safety committee and performed weekly safety meetings,” according to the report, and the committee conducted a site-specific hazard assessment, which identified several hazards.

But the contractor, which employed about 60 people, failed to identify the operation of mobile equipment near workers as one of those hazards.

“The importance of using the safety key was also not identified,” Thomson wrote.

In all, WorkSafe identified four violations of the Workers Compensation Act and its accompanying regulation.

That includes failing to ensure the health and safety of all workers, failing to ensure the operator of the excavator operated the equipment safely, failing to ensure the bucket was installed on the excavator as specified by the manufacturer, and failing to ensure workers were not exposed to the swinging movement of the excavator.

According to WorkSafeBC’s website, Sandpiper received a $41,939.17 fine earlier this year.

The website notes fines are based on “the nature of the violation, a company’s history of violations, and the size of the company’s payroll.”

A search for Sandpiper in WorkSafe’s penalty database turned up no results outside of the July 2020 incident.

Sandpiper did not respond to two emails and a phone call requesting comment on the matter.

But Marcon Construction, the company that hired Sandpiper, put out a statement at the time of the incident.

“We are saddened by the tragedy related to our construction site in Burnaby and our primary concern is for this worker’s family. We have offered our support to our trade partner for whom he worked. We will also be offering support to anyone who witnessed the accident,​​” Marcon president Marco Paolella said in a written statement published in a July 2020 CBC news story.

“This company has its own safety protocols and procedures that govern their work, therefore we cannot speak on their behalf about their safety oversight.”

Get Burnaby Beacon in your inbox.

An in-depth understanding of the stories that affect Burnaby and beyond, every weekday.

Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

Tags in this Article

Latest Articles

January 21, 2022

SFU Student Society closes SUB as added safety measure for return to campus

The closure will take place from Jan 24 to at least Feb 18.

January 21, 2022

BCIT faculty association president wants online learning on a case-by-case basis

BCITFSA president Colin Jones wants some clarity on the level of autonomy that BCIT has in making its own decisions when it comes to education delivery.