No charges in forklift death

Two years after his death, provincial workplace health and safety inspectors have decided not to pursue charges in the death of local teen Mitchell Tanner.

Tanner was killed on June 7, 2008 when a forklift rolled onto its side at the Rona store on Inglewood Drive, crushing him.

The teen was a popular Paul Kane student and graffiti remembering him is still visible all over the community. Hundreds of his friends and classmates came out to his funeral and burial.

Chris Chodan, a spokesperson for Albert Workplace Health and Safety, said they do not believe charges would lead to a conviction.

"While it is obviously a terrible tragedy and we feel very sorry for the family, our regulations are pretty clear that our prosecutors have to meet a two-fold test to go ahead and lay charges."

In addition to whether prosecutors could reasonably expect a conviction, Chodan said the investigators gauge whether it is in the public interest to lay charges.

"You would have to prove that it was foreseeable, that it was preventable and that there was someone with the authority to do that."

Two forklifts at the store were pulled from service following the accident and sent for mechanical inspections before being returned to duty.

Chodan said the inspection found no mechanical problems.

The company was ordered to prepare a hazard assessment that identified how the incident could have been avoided.

"You have to go over the circumstances of the incident, prepare a report that includes the corrective actions and submit a copy to our office for approval."

He said the company also has to communicate the report's findings to all staff members to help avoid future incidents.

Second day
Tanner was on just his second day on the job when he was killed. The Grade 10 student was an avid guitar player and hoped to be a teacher one day, often volunteering at a local elementary school.

According to reports at the time, it appeared Tanner was riding on the side of the forklift when it rolled over on top of him. Chodan wouldn't confirm that version of events.

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), said he is disappointed the government is not pursuing charges, but not surprised.

"The Alberta government has a sorry record when it comes to laying charges in occupational health and safety cases," he said. "Our government lays charges at a much lower rate than almost any other province in the country."

McGowan said the AFL would like to see tougher rules on forklifts in the workplace because they are often used incorrectly.

"The reality is that too many employers don't take the safety hazards seriously and they forget that a forklift isn't a toy; it is a piece of heavy equipment that is to be operated with care."

He also called for the government to explain more about their decision not to lay charges.

"The bottom line is whether or not the employer did everything they could to keep people like Tanner safe and if they didn't, they should face prosecution regardless of whether or not someone thinks the case is winnable."

Tanner's family declined to comment when reached by the Gazette.

St. Albert Gazette, Tues Jun 8 2010
Byline: Ryan Tumilty

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.