Farm employees continued working in field despite storm threat, concludes safety
The Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST), Quebec’s health and safety regulatory board, has revealed the conclusions of its investigation into the death of farm worker Oscar Antonio Vicente-Torres.
Vicente-Torres was working for farm N. et L. St-Denis S.E.N.C., on 10 August 2021 in Oka, QC, when he was struck by lightning.
On the day of the accident, Vicente-Torres was working in a cauliflower field with other workers at the Oka farm. His task was closing the plants’ leaves with elastic ties.
A storm appeared above the field, Vicente-Torres and the other workers continued working despite the rain and the sound and sight of lightning. The sound indicated that the lightning was around 4.5 kilometres away from the farm. A few minutes later, Vicente-Torres was struck by lightning.
Emergency services were called to scene and Vincente-Torres was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The CNESST found that a lack of procedures around lightning hazards meant that the workers continued working despite the storm.
Following the accident, the CNESST demanded that the employer elaborate an evacuation plan from the fields in case of storms, and asked that they put in place meteorological surveillance. In addition, the CNESST demanded that workers be trained on the dangers of being struck by lightning and on correct evacuation procedures. The employer complied with the demands.
The CNESST will create a tool destined to educate workplaces on the dangers of lightning, and procedures to put into place to protect workers when they are working outside.
The organization will also forward the investigation results to various relevant industry groups so as to inform their members on the dangers of lightning.