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Update: Richmond company not fined for fatal accident caused by unsafe worksite

A 24-year-old woman passed away after getting hit by a forklift in 2021
Tree Island Industries is a steel manufacturer on the 3900 block of Boundary Road in Richmond.

A Richmond steel manufacturer responsible for a young worker's fatal injury did not receive a penalty from WorkSafeBC.

The Richmond News previously reported in May 2021 that a woman had succumbed to her injuries after an industrial accident in North Hamilton.

A recent WorkSafeBC report revealed the fatal accident was caused by the lack of a designated walkway and an unsafe worksite.

According to the investigation report, Tree Island Industries had violated the Workers Compensation Act and its own safety regulations by failing to ensure the health and safety of all workers and failing to provide a work area for safe movement.

The 24-year-old young worker, who worked as a chemical process engineer, was believed to have been struck by a forklift transporting coils of steel wire at an S-curve intersection in the rod yard.

“The (forklift operator) did not see (the worker) and it is not known why the (worker) did not or could not avoid the forklift,” reads the report.

The worker was wearing a “high-visibility vest with reflective stripes” at the time, which met regulation requirements. She had gone through a new hire orientation when she started working at Tree Island, and the forklift operator was qualified for his job.

WorkSafeBC determined there was no separation between pedestrians and mobile equipment at the scene of the accident, which resulted in the two working in close proximity and “greatly increased the risk of a worker being struck by mobile equipment, as occurred in this incident.”

Tree Island also did not fully implement its health and safety measures, as there were no worksite inspections of the rod yard, no regular safety meetings and no adequate control of hazards of operating mobile equipment.

“Although (Tree Island) appears to have had several systems in place to identify hazards and address risks, the risk of struck-by incidents in its rod yard was not adequately addressed and corrected prior to the incident,” reads the report.

“Effective controls were not implemented to eliminate or reduce the interaction of mobile equipment and workers.”

The report was completed more than one year ago on Jan. 7, 2022, but only became available to the public this year.

Since the incident, Tree Island implemented measures such as widening the roadway, implementing a designated walkway with a crosswalk and adding signs and gates at the site of the incident.

A WorkSafeBC spokesperson confirmed that Tree Island had received a warning letter but was not penalized for the violations.

Warning letters and administrative penalties both serve to motivate employers to comply with health and safety regulations, explained the spokesperson.

"The issuance of a warning letter does not affect or limit WorkSafeBC's ability to pursue administrative penalties, prosecution, or other enforcement or compliance action for subsequent violations."