Construction worker dies of heatstroke, investigation reveals

Worker killed after day spent working in extreme heat

Construction worker dies of heatstroke, investigation reveals

The Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) – the organization which administers Quebec’s health and safety plan – has revealed the results of its investigation into the workplace death of Jean-Charles Junior Wapistan.

Wapistan, a manual faller for construction firm Tawich inc., died of heatstroke on August 17, 2021, on a worksite in Micoua-Saguenay.

On the day of the accident, Wapistan was at the worksite and was busy clearing space for a future 735 kV electrical line. Working with two other employees, he needed to cut, delimb and fell the trees with a chainsaw, manually skid and then pick up the branches.  

It was a hot summer day and the air temperature was over 30 degrees Celsius. At the end of his day, Wapistan went to go to the parking lot, staying at a distance behind his colleagues. A few moments later, he branched off to the inside of the forest, fainted and fell face first.

Having arrived at the car, Wapistan’s colleagues noticed that he was not there and went to find him. Wapistan was found a few minutes later. Emergency services were called to the scene and Wapistan was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The CNESST revealed two causes to explain the accident: The worker was suffering from heat stroke at the end of his work day as the air temperature in the forest was over 30 degrees Celsius; and management around worker exposure to extreme heat conditions was deficient, which meant that Wapistan was working in conditions that exceeded the heat exposure threshold for this line of work.

Following the accident, the CNESST forbade the clearing work in section 1 of the worksite to continue. In addition, it required Hydro-Québec – the project coordinator – to define better safety measures for workers exposed to extreme weather conditions such as heat. The CNESST also asked the organization to put into place efficient measures for emergency evacuation. Hydro-Québec complied with the requests.