Olson's mother, Alice, and his brother, Ben, are seeking answers to what happened. ((CBC))

The family of an oilpatch worker killed by sour gas in Alberta two years ago is hoping to get answers now that his employer has been charged under the province's occupational health and safety legislation.

Hans Olson, 46, died hours after he was exposed to sour gas while doing maintenance on a gas well near Fox Creek in northwestern Alberta in March 2008.

The experienced oil and gas worker, originally from Valemount, B.C., had been employed by ELH Enterprises in Whitecourt, about 170 km northwest of Edmonton, for less than a year.

"The word I got is that he phoned the office asking how to do the job," said his brother, Ben Olson, in Valemount Tuesday. "Now, if he was phoning asking how to do the job, he should have left it. He shouldn't have done nothing, shouldn't [have] done the job at all."

When Olson was found, alarms for detecting hydrogen sulfide were ringing at the site. He was also allegedly not wearing a breathing device.

Companies charged in March

According to an autopsy report, Olson died from "acute hydrogen sulfide toxicity." Levels of the lethal gas were more than 1,000 parts per million. A level of around 500 parts per million is considered dangerous to life.


Hans Olson was killed in March 2008 near Fox Creek, Alta. ((Courtesy of the Olson Family))

ELH Enterprises and its owner, Eugene Hausauer, were charged in March 2010 with seven violations of the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act, including failing to properly train Olson and not doing a proper hazard assessment.

Olson's friend Virginia Read is a health and safety officer who worked in the oil patch for more than a decade. She said she used to worry about some of the jobs Olson was sent out on.

"It did make me feel very uneasy," she said. "There was nights I didn't sleep because I was worried whether he was going to come home."

ELH Enterprises is expected to enter pleas on the charges in June. Site leaseholder Orleans Energy also faces one charge under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for allegedly not ensuring the contractor followed safety legislation on the site.

With files from the CBC's Kim Trynacity