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Charges dismissed Cardston wrongful workplace death case

Posted on 24 March 2021 by Delon Shurtz

Charges against a Cardston company following a work-related death of an employee three years ago have been dismissed.

Judge John Maher ruled March 18in Lethbridge provincial court that the Crown failed to prove Taurus Natural Inc., a livestock feed company, didn’t do enough to ensure the safety of 41-year-old Scott Forsyth, who died on the job Jan. 30. 2018.

Maher said in his lengthy decision, Forsyth was adequately trained and competent to operate equipment, specifically a dry mineral mixing hopper, but he failed to follow company protocols, which led to his death.

The worker climbed into the mixing hopper, which had become clogged, even though the mixer control had not been isolated and locked out, which would have prevented the machine from operating.

The mixer was activated while Forsyth was inside the hopper, and the steel rotating agitator pinned him to the inside wall.

Fourteen charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and OHS regulations and codes, alleged the company failed to protect Forsyth by failing to ensure he and other workers were properly trained to operate the equipment and follow safety protocols.

Company owner Bart Leavitt testified at trial in January that Forsyth was fully trained to operate the mixer, and knew it needed to be locked out to prevent it from operating while anyone is inside cleaning or maintaining it.

Under cross examination by the Crown, Leavitt conceded there was no operating manual for the equipment, but pointed out there was a set procedure, of which Forsyth was fully aware.

During his closing arguments at the conclusion of the trial, Calgary lawyer Michael Smith said the company did all it could to protect its employees, and can’t be blamed for Forsyth’s actions on the day he died.

“The actions of Scott Forsyth are not the actions of Taurus Natural Inc., and the failings of Scott Forsyth are not the failings of Taurus Natural Inc.,” Smith said.

Forsyth and fellow worker Matthew Walker were trying to figure out why the mixer had become clogged on that fateful day.

While Walker remained in the mixer control room, Forsyth had, without Walker’s knowledge, climbed into the hopper without ensuring it was first locked out and someone was standing watch.

Walker, who had not been trained to run the mixer and was not authorized to operate it but only assist Forsyth, turned it on to see if he could get it started. He walked into the mixing room, heard the mixer squealing, and turned it off, then looked for Forsyth, unaware he had been killed in the hopper.

Maher referred to Walker’s evidence at trial, in which he testified he turned on the mixer because he believed Forsyth wanted him to continue to try to figure out what was wrong with it.

Maher said it is inexplicable that Forsyth failed to follow the safety protocols, even though he was trained to follow the procedures and had done so on many other occasions.

“It is a mystery why he did not follow them on the afternoon of Jan. 30,” Maher said.

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