The Thunder Creek Pork Plant will pay a fine of $60,000 after an employee was injured after falling from a tall height.
The company pleaded guilty in Moose Jaw provincial court on Jan. 13 to one count under The Saskatchewan Employment Act. As part of a joint submission between the Crown and defence, the company will pay the main fine of $42,857.15 and a 40-per-cent surcharge of $17,142.85.
The company contacted Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) on July 18, 2018, after an employee was injured on the job, explained Crown prosecutor Sandeep Bains.
Besides his regular duties, the employee, then 65, was also responsible for handling the disposal of hogs after autopsies were performed on them. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) showed up at the plant to conduct post-mortems after 11 hogs had arrived deceased.
The CFIA chose three hogs on which to conduct autopsies to determine why they had died. Once finished, the CFIA left the carcasses on the floor and asked the employee to dispose of the bodies.
The employee put two carcasses on a forklift and then raised the forks so he could dispose of the bodies into a receptacle, said Bains. He had to climb a ladder and stand on top of the bin — without fall protection — in order to pull the carcasses into an opening.
As the man was pulling, the ties around the hooves slipped off and “he took a tumble” onto the concrete floor nearly 11 feet below, Bains continued. The employee bruised his left knee, left foot, and right elbow, while his right knee was swollen.
He required surgery on his right leg, which included the installation of a T-plate and seven screws.
While the employee — now 67 — returned to work in January 2019, he will need another surgery on Jan. 20, 2020 to remove the screws and plate have since come loose, said Bains.
“He hopes to be back at work in February. Let’s hope for the best,” the Crown prosecutor said.
The Thunder Creek Pork Plant conducted a safety assessment in April 2018 to deal with such issues and brought in the changes in August 2018, which included using a basket to reach the top of the receptacle, having fall protection in place, and purchasing a tall ladder.
Bains added that it was unfortunate this accident had to occur for the company to make the changes.
Defence lawyer John Agioritis informed Judge Daryl Rayner that plant manager Steve Mah was in the courtroom as a representative of parent company Donald’s Fine Foods. Mah’s presence, said Agioritis, is “evidence and the manifestation of corporate remorse,” while the company also takes this seriously and regrets that the accident happened.
This accident was the result of a “confluence of factors,” Agioritis said. Autopsies on hogs are normally done outside, but since it was July and the temperature was more than 30 degrees Celsius, they were performed inside.
Furthermore, since the carcass receptacle was in a room, the employee was unable to tip the forklift’s forks into the bin. There was also no written procedure for handling this situation.
There are 250 employees who work at the plant and this particular employee had worked there before and had received training, said Agioritis. The company agrees there was no fall protection but has now rectified that.
“There was a gap in the system and it will never happen again,” he said.
Some changes now include conducting all autopsies outside, installing a beam to which employees can attach safety harnesses, and purchasing a safety ladder. All of these new safety measures cost $96,500.
Agioritis pointed out the company visited the employee in the hospital and even brought him food from a barbecue. The employee is now back at work — until his surgery — on modified duties.
The judge accepted the joint submission, adding this was a significant injury, which will likely make it more difficult for the employee to recover from due to his age.
Moose Jaw provincial court next meets Jan. 15.