No safety harness for farm worker, fatality inquiry told

An inquiry into the death of an Alberta farm worker buried alive while shovelling grain in a silo gets underway Wednesday.

A man buried alive while shovelling grain in a silo wasn't wearing a safety harness, his co-worker testified during a fatality inquiry in Okotoks, Alta.

Kevan Chandler, a 36-year-old father of two, died in June 2006 on a feedlot near High River, south of Calgary.

Testifying on the first day of the hearing Wednesday, his co-worker Matheus Drabbe described what happened that day in "silo 7."

Chandler was inside, pulling grain left along the sides of the silo down to the floor, when he asked for a stick to help with the job, said Drabbe. The co-worker went to fetch one, and when he returned a few minutes later he discovered Chandler had been buried.

Chandler was wearing a dust mask but no safety harness, said Drabbe, who added there would have been no point because there wasn't a place to attach a safety harness.

Family pushing for changes

Chandler's wife Lorna said the hearing brought back painful memories, but she hoped the provincial government will decide to do more to protect farm workers.

Her supporters are angry that Alberta's workplace health and safety laws don't apply to farm workers, and they've been lobbying the province to extend the workplace standards to farms.

"I am hoping that the judge will see that had the proper safety rules been in place, then Kevan would have been wearing a safety harness and he would have gone home at the end of his shift to his family," said Patricia Forrest, Chandler's sister-in-law.  

The judge can't make any binding recommendations, only suggest ways similar deaths can be prevented.

Forrest and other family members, as well as representatives from some farm groups, plan to be at the inquiry, which will wrap up Thursday.