Inquest recommends safety improvements after 2021 workplace death

FREDERICTON, New Brunswick —  A jury at a coroner’s inquest has made recommendations to improve safety at Marwood Ltd., a family owned wood products manufacturer, and similar businesses that manufacture wood products.

An inquest into the Feb. 11, 2021, death of William Russell was held Monday and Tuesday in Fredericton. Russell died several days after he sustained injuries on the job at the company’s facility in Tracyville.

He was a 51-year-old married father of three and grandfather of one, according to his obituary.

Marwood Ltd. previously pleaded guilty to "failing to ensure the safety of their employees working on, with, or around a conveyor" in connection with Russell's death, WorkSafeNB spokesperson Laragh Dooley, said in the CBC report.

WorkSafeNB recommended the charge be laid under the Occupational Health and Safety Act following an investigation, she said.

In December 2021, the company was ordered to pay a fine of $85,000 plus a victim surcharge of $17,000, according to the report.

Coroners and juries can classify a death as a homicide, suicide, accident, natural causes, or cause undetermined. The inquest found Russell’s death was the result of an accident.

The five-member jury heard from nine witnesses and made the following recommendations to WorkSafeNB:

  • Utilize mature industries and other jurisdictions in Canada to determine safety standards, best practices, regulation and legislation that will help New Brunswick companies understand and implement safety management systems in a clear, specific and easy-to-understand way.
  • Templates and examples could be made available to companies for inspection and documentation requirements. This would be in lieu of the Occupational Health and Safety Act just saying that documentation or inspection is required.
  • More detail should be included in the act or regulation on what is required for training, documenting training, and data on which employees are up to date or who is late for training. Additionally, there should be more detail on the delivery, communication and sign-off for standard operation procedures.
  • The chief coroner will forward these recommendations to the appropriate agencies for consideration and response. The response will be included in the chief coroner’s annual report for 2023.

An inquest is a formal court proceeding that allows for the public presentation of all evidence relating to a death. It does not make any finding of legal responsibility, nor does it assign blame. However, recommendations can be made, aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances in the future.

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Larry Adams | Editor

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about woodworking, he has covered science, metrology, metalworking, industrial design, quality control, imaging, Swiss and micromanufacturing . He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).