Manitoba Hydro contractor employee dies after being struck by falling steel

An employee of a contractor working for Manitoba Hydro died early Wednesday morning after being injured on a job site near Gillam, Man.

Employee worked for company building transmission line to Keeyask Generating Station

The employee was working for Forbes Brothers, the company that is building a transmission line to carry power to the Keeyask Generating Station, seen here. (Manitoba Hydro)

An employee of a contractor working for Manitoba Hydro died after being struck by a falling piece of steel at a job site near Gillam, Man., the Crown corporation says.

The employee worked for Forbes Brothers Ltd., the company that is building a transmission line that will carry power to the under-construction Keeyask Generating Station from the Radisson Converter Station, according to a news release from Manitoba Hydro.

The accident took place around 8:50 a.m. Wednesday at a marshalling yard about 45 kilometres outside Gillam, near the Limestone Generating Station on the lower Nelson River.

Gillam is about 740 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

The name and age of the worker is not being released, Hydro said. Family has been notified.

Edmonton-based Forbes Brothers said in a news release the man, a member of the Lake Manitoba First Nation community, had worked for the company since 2015 as a labourer.

The firm employs roughly 500 people in Manitoba and more than 1,000 people across North America.

Hydro spokesperson Scott Powell told CBC News the employee was securing a load of steel on the truck at a limestone material yard about 50 kilometres north of Gillam when the steel came loose and struck him in the head.

He was rushed to hospital and died shortly later, Forbes said in the release.

"Our thoughts and condolences go out to the worker's family," said Kelvin Shepherd, president of Manitoba Hydro.

"This is a very sad and tragic incident. Counselling has been made available to all contractor and Manitoba Hydro employees who were on site at the time of the accident."

Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health is investigating. In its release, Forbes said it is working alongside Hydro and Workplace Safety and Health in the investigation.

Corey Papp, vice-president of corporate services at Forbes Brothers, said the man was wearing all of his safety equipment at the time, but the materials being loaded would have been quite heavy.

The firm says it has an extensive safety program, including a COR certification — an occupational health and safety accreditation — and prides itself as a safety-first company.

"Our commitment to safety is very strong, this is something that is very hard for the company to accept and to deal with," said Papp.

The company said Thursday it voluntarily shut down all of its operations in Manitoba after the incident.

'No concerns' with safety record: Hydro

Forbes said it is in close contact with immediate family members of the employee, some of whom have also worked for the firm, and offered its deepest sympathies in the Thursday release. The firm said it is working with Hydro and union representatives to offer support services to the family and other staff.

Hydro spokesperson Powell said the Crown corporation has "no concerns" right now about Forbes's safety record.

"We don't have any concerns at this time but obviously it's something representatives from Workplace Safety and Health go through," Powell said.

"We're co-operating fully with their investigation and we're supporting our contractor, Forbes Brothers."

Forbes Brothers was the main contractor for Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro when two linemen, Jared Moffat and Tim McLean, were killed in a transmission tower collapse in June 2017.

The incident prompted the Manitoba Federation of Labour to call on Manitoba Hydro to make sure workers on towers in the province are safe.

In August, Forbes Brothers said the collapse was caused by a deviation in procedure for replacing a guy wire.

Papp says the firm will look at the incident and strengthen its safety program if needed.

"We always look at areas that we are able to improve on and make sure that our safety programs are applied across all of our projects," Papp said.

"It is a dangerous industry — you are working at heights and working with heavy equipment — but it's an industry that has a lot of controls in place to make sure that those risks and hazards are managed."