Worker killed at Irving Shipyard was struck by front loader during snow removal

'Workplaces must adapt their procedures' to deal with severe weather says Unifor official

Worker killed at Irving Shipyard was struck by front loader during snow removal

Halifax Regional Police and the Department of Labour are continuing their investigations into a tragic incident that occurred at the Irving Shipyard in Halifax, resulting in the death of 43-year-old Jamie Knight on Monday.

Sari Sairanen, executive assistant to the secretary treasurer at Unifor, and the former health and safety director at Unifor, provided exclusive details to Canadian Occupational Safety. According to Sairanen, "the worker was not performing his usual duties at the time of the accident. Instead, he was struck and killed by a front loader while it was clearing snowbanks at the shipyard."

Unifor, representing over 1,100 shipyard workers, is actively involved in the investigation. "We're working with the employer and the regulator, examining where prevention failed and what needs to be done," Sairanen mentioned.

The union has deployed health and safety experts to assess workplace hazards and identify areas for improvement. Additionally, Unifor is providing support to the affected workers and their families, recognizing the traumatic impact of the incident on the community.

Sairanen points to climate change as a factor that needs to be addressed by employers as we all deal with more frequent and severe weather events. “Workplaces must adapt their procedures to ensure the safety of workers," says Sairanen. She stressed the need for comprehensive training, regular safety drills, and ongoing evaluation of safety procedures to mitigate risks associated with snow removal and other hazardous tasks.

The province of Nova Scotia has been hit with two major snowstorms this month, one of which dumped several feet of snow in some areas.

In response to the fatal incident, a Stop Work Order was issued, and a thorough review of existing safety protocols is underway. "With climate change, we're going to be impacted more and more by extreme weather. So what are the precautions, what are the processes that have been identified to look at when you have, for example, snow removal?" Sairanen questions.

The issue surrounding snow removal processes was recently highlighted by Quebec’s workplace health and safety regulator, CNESST, after a teenage worker was struck and killed by a front loader during snow removal in February 2023. The CNESST released a report calling for improved snow removal processes earlier this month.

Both the employer and regulatory agencies are committed to identifying shortcomings in safety procedures and implementing necessary changes to prevent future tragedies.

Irving Shipbuilding has stated that it is fully cooperating with the ongoing investigation.

The investigation into the fatal incident remains ongoing as authorities seek to determine the exact circumstances leading to the worker's death. In the meantime, efforts to improve safety standards and support affected workers continue at the Irving Shipyard in Halifax.