Father of worker killed on the job still searching for answers months later

Barry Swan’s son, Todd Maytwayashing, died after a falling piece of steel being loaded onto a semi-trailer hit him in the head on Jan. 17, 2018.

Barry Swan says no one has apologized to him for the accident that led to his son's death

Todd Maytwayashing, 22, died after he was hit in the head by a falling piece of steel at a Forbes Brothers Ltd. near Gillam, Man. on Jan. 17, 2018. (Submitted by Preston Swan)

More than three months after the death of his son on a northern Manitoba job site, Barry Swan is still waiting for answers.

"I guess we would mourn and try to move on if we had answers," said Swan. "Today we have no answers, no one has come to us with answers, and that's what we're begging for."

Swan's son, Todd Maytwayashing, died after a falling piece of steel that was being loaded onto a semi-trailer hit him in the head on Jan. 17, 2018.

The 22-year-old from Lake Manitoba First Nation was working for construction firm Forbes Brothers Ltd. and was hired by Manitoba Hydro to help build a transmission line connecting the Keeyask Generating Station to the existing Radisson Converter Station near Gillam, about 740 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

Swan has spoken with representatives from Forbes and Workplace Safety and Health, which are both investigating the incident, but he said neither have offered him any explanation about what caused the accident that killed his son.

"I certainly wouldn't mind a sincere apology from someone, anyone, but to date no one has come to our family and said 'We're sorry, this is what happened,'" he said.

In an emailed statement, Workplace Safety and Health spokesperson John Neufeld said whenever an incident occurs, WHS investigates to determine if any changes are necessary.

"Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health is working in collaboration with the RCMP and has initiated an independent investigation under the Workplace Safety and Health Act and Regulations. That investigation is ongoing and WSH cannot speculate at this time as to when to expect a final report," Neufeld said.

Barry Swan spoke at a sod-turning ceremony in Memorial Park on Friday to commemorate workers killed on the job. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

Saturday marks the national Day of Mourning for workers killed on the job. Swan attended a ceremony in Winnipeg on Friday, where ground was broken for three new memorials.

Swan said he's speaking out to try to ensure no other families go through the same experience.

"We want to make sure that your kid goes home safe, your kid doesn't get bullied and harassed at a workplace, and your kids do not get to go to an unsafe environment and perish there," he said.

CBC News has reached out to Forbes Brothers Ltd. for comment. 

Less than a month after Maytwayashing's death, another worker on a Forbes Brothers site in Manitoba fell from a pole that was part of the Bipole III transmission line. The company said the fall was caused by an equipment malfunction. The worker was not injured in that incident.

Motion to restore safety council defeated

Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew said he has met with Maytwayashing's family and says his death reveals the need for strong enforcement of worker safety regulations, which he said the provincial government is weakening with their omnibus Boards, Committees, Councils and Commissions Streamlining Act.

On Thursday, the NDP brought forward a motion to restore the Advisory Council on Workplace Safety and Health, which the government announced it was cutting in December following a value-for-money review. The NDP motion was defeated when time ran out before it could be put to a vote.

The council included representatives from employers and labour. It was required every five years to undertake a review of Manitoba's Workplace Safety and Health Act and report its findings and recommendations to the minister.

The elimination of the council leaves workers with one less way to raise safety concerns, Kinew said.

"Now workers will have less input into the rules that protect their safety. Seems sort of a no-brainer to ask the people who are going to be affected by the rules to give advice on them," he said.

The council recently completed its five-year review of the legislation and the province says it will be released when it has time to go over the recommendations.

In an emailed statement, Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen said worker safety is a "top priority."

"There are dedicated officials within the Manitoba public service who are responsible for advising government on a daily basis on matters related to workplace safety and health," he said.

"A review of the Workplace Safety and Health Act was recently completed and an advisory council comprised of workers and employers will be appointed when the next five year review is due."

About the Author

Cameron MacLean

Web Writer

Cameron MacLean is a journalist living in Winnipeg, Man. where he was born and raised. He has more than a decade of experience covering news in the city and across the province, working in print, radio, television and online.

With files from Kristin Annable