The death of a 17-year-old co-op student at an auto-parts facility last September in the township of West Lincoln, Ontario has been deemed an accident with no criminal liability. No charges are being laid, following investigations by the Niagara Regional Police (NRP) and the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL).
Adam Keunen, a Grade 12 student at Beamsville District Secondary School in Beamsville, was in his first week at a co-op placement at Plazek Auto Recycler when he was hit and crushed by a front-end loader on the morning of Sept. 26. Both the NRP and the MOL sent investigators to the scene of the fatality immediately.
MOL media representative William Lin confirmed to COHSN that the ministry’s investigation had been completed as of March 24.
“I can confirm that no charges were laid in this incident,” Lin said, adding that criminal charges in such an incident were the police’s department. “What we do is, in general, reinforce the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Criminal charges are separate from that.”
The NRP did not respond to COHSN by press time, and Plazek had already stated that it would not be commenting to the media on the incident.
Despite the perceived lack of criminal responsibility in the fatality, Keunen’s death has resulted in public reaction leading to legislative change. Following the incident, the Canadian Intern Association (CIA) called for increased oh&s protection of unpaid work-integrated learning programs under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), the Employment Standards Act and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.
“The exclusion of co-op students from OHSA meant that it was the Niagara Regional Police that led the investigation into the workplace accident, rather than the Ministry of Labour, who normally investigates such incidents,” the CIA stated in a press release on Sept. 29. “These tragic incidents necessitate that the Ontario government undertake a fulsome review of co-ops, academic internships and experiential learning programs, to ensure the safety and well being of students and young workers is being protected.”
In November, the Government of Ontario revised OSHA to cover unpaid co-op students, as well as learners taking part in a work placement that a school board or post-secondary institution has approved.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety offers some advice on using tractors with front-end loaders around other employees safely:
- Make sure all other workers keep away from the tractor when using the loader;
- Keep the load as close to the ground as possible, to prevent the tractor from tipping if its rear lifts;
- Operate the vehicle at low speeds;
- Don’t go downhill with a loaded bucket;
- Drive in a straight line when loading or raising the bucket to unload;
- Before raising the bucket, get as close to the intended dump area as possible;
- Never let anyone ride in the bucket or use it as a work platform;
- Never stand or work under a raised loader, nor let anyone else walk under it; and
- Never drive the tractor with a lifted load.