Uninspected equipment installation led to worker's death, finds inquest

Worker was struck in the chest by a metal pulley at N.B. Power plant

Uninspected equipment installation led to worker's death, finds inquest

Improper installation of an equipment was the ultimate cause of the accident that led to the death of one construction worker back in 2020, a coroner’s inquest in New Brunswick heard from numerous witnesses.

On Jan. 27, 2020, scaffolder Louis Gagnon, 56, was doing work for subcontractor Sunny Corner Enterprises of Miramichi at N.B. Power plant.

About 20 workers were there, running an electrical cable, several hundred metres long, in underground pipes. 

A strong mechanical winch – guided by a network of pulleys attached to concrete walls by anchor points – was pulling the cable through the pipe.

One of those concrete anchors that gave way and Gagnon was struck in the chest by a metal pulley. He later died from his injuries.

During Wednesday’s inquest, two experts and 14 witnesses testified that the concrete anchor was improperly installed. The experts also said it was not inspected, according to a CBC report.

Improper focus of safety training

While the workers underwent safety training, the training had been focused on the cable but not the installation of concrete anchors and pulley system, Michel Cyr, WorkSafeNB investigator told the inquest.

Also, the anchors had several technical problems, said Kevin Giles, the health and safety manager of Nova Scotia-based Hercules Group of Companies, who was sent by WorkSafeNB to analyze the anchors.

Some parts, including the concrete anchor and eyebolt, were not used as recommended by manufacturers. This reduced their maximum load strength.

These were "unacceptable equipment installation practices,” he said, according to the CBC report.

Gary Daneff, another engineering expert, said: “The anchor had not been completely inserted into the hole.”

He also found that the anchors had been installed before the work began, which is a risky practice.

Witnesses could not identify who installed the anchor points or when they were installed, according to the report.

Inquest recommendations

Following the inquest, the five-person jury recommended that workers installing equipment should undergo proper training. 

The equipment should be inspected, and the risk zone with this pulley system should clearly be marked, they said, according to CBC.

Deputy chief coroner Emily Caissy added his recommendation that N.B. Power and its subcontractors must adequately plan work and involve engineers in such planning.