Inco charged in death - Company and supervisor charged death at refineryPublished by MAC on 2003-05-14
Inco charged in death - Company and supervisor charged by Ministry of Labour in 2002 death at refinery
By Denis St. Pierre, The Sudbury Star, Canada
May 14, 2003
Local News - In what may be a precedent-setting case, Inco Ltd. and one of its employees - Greater Sudbury city Coun. Ted Callaghan - have been charged in connection with a workplace death.
The charges against Inco and Callaghan have been laid by the Ontario Ministry of Labour for alleged violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The charges, which were presented in court Tuesday, stem from a year-long investigation into the March 25, 2002, death of Brian Laughlin, 50.
Laughlin, a veteran employee at Inco's Copper Cliff Nickel Refinery, died from lung failure about six days after he was exposed to toxic nickel carbonyl gas, according to the labour ministry's allegations.
During his last shift at the nickel refinery, on March 19, 2002, Laughlin was assigned the task of draining a series tanks containing nickel carbonyl.
Inco has been charged with five violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, while Callaghan faces two charges for alleged failures to meet his obligations as a workplace supervisor.
The next court date for Inco and Callaghan is June 18.
The case may be precedent-setting because Callaghan has been charged as a supervisor even though he is an hourly-rated, rank-and-file unionized employee at Inco. Callaghan is classified as a leader at the nickel refinery.
"It is the first time, to my knowledge, that an hourly-rated leader has been charged by the ministry as a supervisor under the act," said Don McGraw, health and safety chairman with Local 6500 of the United Steelworkers of America.
Callaghan, who has hired a lawyer to represent him in court, said he would not comment other than to say he will be "vigourously defending" himself against the allegations.
McGraw declined comment on the merits or implications of the charges against Callaghan.
"We're going to wait to see what happens in court," he said.
Two sources familiar with the investigation into last year's fatality said the Ministry of Labour initially contemplated prosecuting a non-union supervisor at the nickel refinery. In fact, the non-union supervisor may have been charged before the ministry reconsidered and Callaghan ultimately was charged, the sources said.
A co-worker at the nickel refinery said Tuesday he sympathizes with Callaghan, whom he described as a competent and respected employee.
"Ted's a pretty good leader, although he's fairly new to the plant," said the co-worker, who spoke on condition he not be identified.
The maximum penalty for an individual convicted of a charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act is a $25,000 fine and up to one year in jail.
Corporations convicted under the act face a maximum fine of $500,000 per offence.
The offences alleged against Inco include failing to take reasonable safety precautions in the workplace and failing to provide proper breathing equipment and a pure air supply to Laughlin.
The ministry alleges that Callaghan failed in two instances to take reasonable safety precautions in the workplace.
Inco Ltd. and one of its employees - Greater Sudbury city councillor Ted Callaghan - have been charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act in connection with the death last year of Inco worker Brian Laughlin.
The Ministry of Labour alleges that:
- Inco "failed to ensure that compressed air for breathing purposes has been submitted for purity analysis within the previous six months;"
- Inco "failed to maintain in good condition the respirator" worn by Laughlin;
- Inco "failed to provide information, instruction and/or supervision to Brian Laughlin ... in the transfer of liquid nickel carbonyl in winter conditions;"
- Inco "failed to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that a pail of water was placed directly under a flange or joint before it was loosened for the transfer of liquid nickel carbonyl;"
- Inco, "when compressed breathing air failed to meet purity requirements ... failed to identify and remove the source of contamination and retest as required;"
- Callaghan, as a supervisor, "failed to take the reasonable precaution of providing information, instruction and/or supervision to Brian Laughlin ... in the transfer of liquid nickel carbonyl in winter conditions;"
- Callaghan "failed to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that a pail of water was placed directly under a flange or joint before it was loosened for the transfer of liquid nickel carbonyl."