Death of Alberta teen under investigation by Occupational Health and Safety
Published Monday, July 21, 2014 3:07PM MDT Last Updated Monday, July 21, 2014 6:28PM MDT
Officers with Occupational Health and Safety are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a 15-year-old worker at a gravel pit near Drumheller on the weekend and say the teen was old enough to be working there.
Chris Lawrence was just days away from his 16th birthday when he was killed in a workplace incident at a gravel pit south of East Coulee on Saturday morning.
Lawrence’s girlfriend, 17-year-old Kristina Kinder, says a friend at the site told her the teen was operating a piece of equipment when something went wrong.
“He told me that something, his vest, something loose got caught,” said Kinder. “He was pulled under.”
Emergency crews were called to the scene around 9:00 a.m. but it was too late save the young man.
Alberta Occupational Health and Safety is investigating the teen’s death and says Lawrence was old enough to work at the site.
“So under the law, a young person is defined as someone who is 15, 16 or 17 years old and these young people or young workers are allowed to work any type of job as long as it is not between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.,” said Kim Misik, OHS spokesperson.
Misik says the young workers are allowed to work in the construction industry and at gravel pit operations and that the same training and safety is expected regardless of age.
“Our investigators are on-scene and will be looking at a number of different areas including hazard assessment, equipment, and training offered,” said Misik.
Kristina Kinder says Lawrence had only been at the job for about six weeks and was planning on quitting soon to take a job closer to home.
“After this weekend, he was going to quit and he was going to come home because he hated being away. We were going to find a new job for him because he hated it,” said Kinder.
Darryl Weibe, Manager of Arjon Construction, says this is the first incident the company has had in 40 years of operation and says the company has sent a counsellor to the site to help employees deal with their grief.
The Alberta Federation of Labour responded to the teen’s death and says the province’s adolescent labour laws are among the worst in the country.
“Alberta’s child labour laws are among the most lax in Canada,” says Siobhan Vipond, AFL Secretary Treasurer. “The AFL has repeatedly made recommendations to improve working conditions and safety standards, specifically for young workers. This weekend’s tragic news is yet another reminder that much more needs to be done to keep Albertans safe at work.”
The Alberta Construction Safety Association says most workplace accidents can be avoided with proper training.
"Our position is that every accident is avoidable in every situation. It's a matter of education, it's a matter of taking the time to find out what the hazards are, how to control those hazards, to do the things that are needed to be done as far as a safe operation is concerned," said Elliott Irwin, Alberta Construction Safety Association.
Kinder says jobs like these are tempting to teens because they pay well but she has this warning for others.
“It’s amazing money, it’s amazing pay, you’re not going to believe your first pay cheque, but if any of you think that you don’t need to be safe, think again because it takes one mistake and you’re going to lose somebody that you love so much,” said Kinder.
OHS says there was 188 workplace related fatalities in 2013.