A Saskatchewan employer has been found not guilty of six
occupational health and safety charges after a worker died of
suffocation when he became engulfed in a grain receiving pit. The
employer’s extensive safety program had emphasized, not
buried, the relevant training.
The charges alleged that the employer failed to properly train
and instruct the employee regarding safety.
The employer showed that the employee had received computer
based training on various topics including confined space safety.
He had completed 12 such training modules, 4 of which dealt with
the “dangers of engulfment”. At the end of each module,
he took a test on which he received a grade of at least 80% which
was the pass rate. He also took 5 hands-on training courses
including one relating to safe-work permits.
The training materials were replete with references to the
dangers of entering a confined space such as a receiving pit. The
materials were extensive. The court rejected the prosecutor’s
argument that the confined space training was “buried
in dozens of [computer based training modules] in hundreds of power
point slides” and therefore would have been
“lost” on the worker. Instead, the court found that the
“mass of material emphasized the dangers, and the
importance of following safety procedures, rather than burying
Also, there was not a “culture of paying lip
service” to safety that would have “detracted”
from his safety training.
In this case, the worker was not directed to do anything
involving a receiving pit. Instead, he had been given an
“innocuous” task which he had also done an hour earlier
– to simply take a flashlight and look into the pit to see
whether it was empty or there was grain in it. There was no reason
for the employer to think that he would enter the receiving pit. In
any event, the employee was properly trained for the work that he
was directed to do. The employer had successfully shown due
diligence. All six charges were dismissed.
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