Report into teen worker killed during snow removal

CNESST investigation reveals flaws in company's safety procedures

Report into teen worker killed during snow removal
Wheel loader in the parking lot at Galeries Laval shopping centre in Laval, Quebec on February 6, 2023 (Source: CNESST)

Quebec’s workplace safety regulator has released a report into a tragedy that struck at the Galeries Laval shopping centre in Laval, Quebec exactly one year ago. A 16-year-old worker, employed by Alimentation Duchemin Inc., lost his life in a heart-wrenching incident that stresses the importance of workplace safety procedures.

Today, the Commission on Standards, Equity, Health, and Safety du Travail (CNESST) has made public the conclusions of its extensive investigation. According to the CNESST, here's what transpired on February 6, 2023.

"On the day of the accident, the worker was picking up empty grocery carts in the parking lot of the business, before its closure. At the same time, snow removal operations took place in another part of the parking lot. Using a wheel loader, an operator carried out maneuvers so as to form a pile. While he was reversing, the worker was fatally crushed. Emergency services were called, and the worker was pronounced dead at the scene."

The CNESST identified a flaw in the company’s safety procedures surrounding snow removal.

"Management of worker movement during snow gathering operations in the parking lot did not allow for preventing the dangers of worker-vehicle collision."

CNESST mandated that Alimentation Duchemin implement a robust and safe working method aimed at eliminating the risk of collision between workers and snow removal vehicles. The company complied with these directives. Furthermore, the wheel loader involved in the incident was barred from use until a comprehensive mechanical inspection confirmed its proper functioning.

The CNESST has also provided specific recommendations to prevent future accidents of this nature:

  • Avoid driving in a parking lot during a snow removal operation.
  • Maintain a safe distance of at least 9 meters from a snow removal vehicle if you must drive in a parking lot during a recovery operation.
  • Establish visual contact with the driver of a snow removal vehicle and ensure you are visible.
  • Avoid sources of distraction, such as using a cell phone or listening to music through headphones when snow removal operations are taking place nearby.
  • Implement a safe procedure to eliminate the danger of collision between snow removal workers and vehicles.
  • Train and inform workers on the risks linked to interactions between snow removal vehicles and pedestrians.

By law, employers are obligated to take the necessary measures to protect the health, safety, and physical well-being of their workers. This includes ensuring the safety of work processes and equipment. Workers, too, have a role to play in identifying hazards and collaborating with their employers to eliminate or mitigate them.

The CNESST will share its findings with the Association of Retailers in the food sector of Quebec to raise awareness and promote safety in workplaces. The investigation report will also be transmitted to the Ministry of Education for dissemination to training establishments offering programs related to machine operation.