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Danny Cavanagh: Irving fined for 2016 sawmill death

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – When I read this headline this morning, I felt that maybe there has been some movement towards justice for needless workplace deaths.

For the majority of my work life, I have been fighting for workplace health and safety. I have attended countless Day of Mourning ceremonies and last year, stood with families, friend and loved ones at the 25th Anniversary of the Westray Disaster.

Each year, we mourn the dead and vow to fight for the living. Our fight is to lobby governments to put some teeth into regulations so that when needless workplace deaths happen, employers pay.

Chad Smith was 28 years old and died while working at J.D. Irving’s Sawmill in the Valley on June 27, 2016.

J.D. Irving was hit with penalties of almost $90,000 and pleading guilty for being responsible for Smith’s death.

The judge in the case said that the full responsibility for this tragedy is on Irving for not ensuring its lift trucks were operated under safe standards as outlined in Nova Scotia’s Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) Act.

This overall penalty is the fourth highest received by a company for a workplace fatality in Nova Scotia for the past 20 years.

Since May 9, 1992 almost 700 workers have died in Nova Scotia at or because of work.

In this case, victim impact statements were profound and once again, a sad reminder that this death was preventable and family and loved ones will never get over the loss. The healing is long and the memories are forever.

Progress is slow, but we will continue to mourn the dead and fight for the living.

Danny Cavanagh is the president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour.


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