Yukon Workers' Comp defends negligence charges
The Yukon Workers' Compensation, Health and Safety Board says it will not drop charges it laid against a northern geological sciences company for negligence leading to the death of an employee last year in a grizzly bear attack.
The compensation board has laid six charges against Yellowknife-based Aurora Geosciences Ltd., which hasan officein Whitehorse, related to the mauling death of 28-year-old Quebec native Jean-François Pagé in April 2006.
The Yukon Chamber of Mines, of which Aurora Geosciences is a member, has since called on the board to withdraw the remarks and apologize to Pagé's family, the company and the mining industry at large. The chamber, saying it's outraged that a company can be held liable for the actions of a wild animal, argued that Pagé's death was not preventable.
"I firmly believe that all injury is preventable," Kurt Dieckmann, the compensation board's director of occupational health and safety, said Tuesday.
"The charges are not related to the bear's behaviour specifically. We can't control how a bear behaves. What we can control is how workplaces and employers respond to hazards within the workplace … When they perform a risky task, they need to assess that risk and put the controls that they can in place to mitigate those risks."
Pagé was staking mining claims in the bush near Ross River, about 200 kilometres northeast of Whitehorse, when he was apparently attacked by a grizzly sow after coming within five metres of a bear den that contained two cubs, RCMP said at the time.
In issuing the charges under the territory's Workers' Compensation Act, the board alleges that Aurora Geosciences — which provides geological services for mineral, oil and gas exploration in Northern Canada and Alaska — did not properly train or equip Pagé for the job.
Dieckmann would not discuss the investigation that led to the charges against Aurora Geosciences, but he said charges are not unusual, even if a company conducts required training courses.
He said the mining community can learnfrom the construction industry's experiences with the compensation board.
"The construction industry is familiar with charges being laid against them. They continue to work," he said.
"They continue to manage safety. They continue to do all the things that they need to do in order to ensure the safety of their workers in the workplace. There's no reason that the exploration industry can't do the exact same thing."
Dieckmann said the compensation board has been funding the development of mining-related safety programs for years. Recently, the board announced $800,000 forprogramsto improve safety in mining and exploration.