Lachine pipe-fixing death was avoidable, safety board says

Quebec's workplace health and safety board says a construction incident that killed a man in April could have been avoided.

Gilles Lévesques was buried alive while working in a trench

Firefighters worked for five hours to remove Lévesques' body from the trench. (CBC)

Quebec's workplace health and safety board says a construction incident that killed a man in April could have been avoided.

Gilles Lévesques, 53, was buried under a half-tonne of debris while fixing water pipes in a trench outside a home in Lachine, in Montreal's west end. The rocks and concrete that suddenly started falling down on him came from the dug-out trench.

The Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail said the construction site was poorly planned and that the pile of debris should have been moved away from the trench where Lévesques was working.

The health and safety board said the support beams in the trench had been put up vertically and should have been supported with a metal casing. Authorities said the trench could have also been dug on an incline to prevent it from collapsing.

"A metal casing could have  been put in the hole to make sure that everything was secure. That was the first thing," safety board inspector Jean-Pierre Chevrier said. "The other thing is the soil that was taken from the hole should have been put at least 1.2 metres from the hole, and it was closer than that. It was about one metre."

The safety board said it's the first offence for S. Fournier Excavations, and it's recommending a fine of up to $62,000 for failing to provide proper safety training to its employees and for not having a workplace safety program put in place.

Another man injured

A 43-year-old driver of a backhoe had jumped into the trench to try and save Lévesques from the collapsing trench but was trapped up to his waist.

Rescue workers pulled him out but said the man sustained trauma to both legs.

Family and friends of Lévesques stood by the trench for five hours while dozens of firefighters worked to reach him after he was buried in the construction debris.