'Enough is enough,' MP says after 2nd death in 7 months at Saint John recycling plant
First man to die was truck driver delivering shipment to metal recycling plant
The latest death of an American Iron and Metal worker in Saint John has provoked calls for a shutdown of the waterfront scrap yard.
Coun. Gerry Lowe, whose ward includes the metal recycling company, said the city is helpless, but the province has to do something after Darrel Richards died from workplace injuries last week, the second person to die on the job at AIM in the past seven months.
"I was hoping that more would be done this time than just start it back up again," Lowe said.
Saint John–Rothesay MP Wayne Long said it's time the province suspended AIM's licence.
"Enough is enough," the Liberal said in a tweet. "After 2 deaths in the last 7 months it's time for AIM to end its operations in Saint John."
Labour council calls for shutdown
Long said he wants AIM out of the city, where west side residents have already had to put up with explosions at the yard.
Shawn Gorman Wetmore, the president of the Saint John District Labour Council, said it doesn't make sense there was no full stop-work order after Richards's death last week.
"I don't understand why the building isn't shut down," she said. "You just can't cut out an area of it and continue the plant working safely. And out of respect for this man, it should be shut down till they find out what comes out of it."
Comments by the province so far suggest the public won't learn anything about what happened at AIM for another year. Labour Minister Trevor Holder indicated he can't express any specific safety concerns until an investigation is done.
The AIM plant sits on federal land, but its operations are regulated by the province. The province, however, says safety enforcement is not its responsibility.
CBC News requested an interview with Holder but received an email statement instead.
"The tragic incidents at the AIM facility over the last number of months, including the one last week, deeply concern me as Minister of Labour," the statement said. "Incidents such as these deeply impact families and our communities, and they should never happen.
"At the end of last week, upon learning of the incident at the AIM facility, I reached out to WorkSafeNB to receive an update and to express these concerns. They have assured me that all steps are being taken to ensure a thorough investigation is carried out and that they will issue appropriate orders or recommend charges to the Crown, depending on their findings."
Holder said it would be inappropriate to comment while the investigation is carried out.
Enough is enough. After 2 deaths in the last 7 months it's time for AIM to end its operations in Saint John.—@MPWayneLong
In the statement, spokesperson Paul Bradley said the department is responsible for the Occupational Health and Safety Act, but the administration of the act is the responsibility of WorkSafeNB.
"WorkSafeNB is the investigative lead on any workplace incident, and would be in the best position to answer any questions related to any workplace incident."
CBC News has sent a followup request for a response in light of Long and Lowe's comments.
WorkSafeNB spokesperson Laragh Dooley said there was no need for a full shutdown because there is no risk to the full facility, and there are health and safety controls in place.
Dooley said both investigations could take 12 months or more, and no information can be released until they are concluded.
New details about November death
The man who died in November 2021 has still not been identified. On Tuesday, Dooley shared new details about what happened.
"The worker who was killed was a truck driver for a contractor delivering material to the site," she wrote in an email.
"Tragically, he was killed when hit by an attachment on the end of an excavator boom."
A boom is the arm of the excavator that typically has a bucket or clamp at the end of it and is used for digging or moving heavy objects.
In Richards's death seven months later, a press roller used in the compacting process was involved. That machinery has now been shut down, but the rest of the plant is still operating.
Dooley said the stop-work order on the press-roller machinery would be lifted once WorkSafe finds it's safe to operate all rollers.
She also said WorkSafeNB would only shut down an entire facility when there is a risk to the whole facility, and "no health and safety controls are in in place."
Dooley said in November that no stop-work order was issued.
"WorkSafeNB did not issue a stop-work order, as the process was governed by appropriate policies that made the operation safe when followed," she said.
Public deserves information, leaders say
Wetmore said just because workers at AIM don't have a union doesn't mean the company should not be publicly accountable for two deaths.
"I guess you don't get more accountable, until something happens that turns people's heads," she told Information Morning in the Summer.
She said it's time for the metal recycling company to answer questions about worker safety — specifically about the training it provides and the health and safety plans already in place.
She said it's important this information is shared publicly, not just with WorkSafeNB, because investigations into workplace deaths can take a long time.
Lowe said it's "disappointing" that the public has no way to know what happened until the investigations are done after 12 months.
"I think the public demands and should have an answer as to what's taken place," he said. "I think we have a right to know. And I'm not saying as a councillor, I'm just saying the general public should have a right to know."
Shawn Gorman Wetmore said health and safety training is a basic feature of modern workplaces and mandatory, but non-unionized employees might not know what their rights are.
Dooley said that once the investigations are completed, depending on the findings, WorkSafeNB "may recommend that the Department of Justice lay charges against AIM for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations."
American Iron and Metal has not responded to a request for comment.
Problems at the yard
AIM has been the site of a large fire, many loud explosions, threats of legal action and several stop-work orders since it signed 40-year-lease with the Port of Saint John.
Explosions and fires could be caused by multiple parts of the scrap yard's operations. Fires could be started by friction when non-metal material found in automobile interiors is removed before the metal is recycled.
The company has previously said that the explosions are caused by propane and gasoline tanks in crushed vehicles going through the shredder.
In December 2020, Michael Cormier, general manager of AIM Atlantic, posted on social media promising to reduce the number of explosions.
To do so, a quality control inspector produces daily inspection reports and imposes financial penalties when hazardous materials are found in a client's shipment.
With files from Information Morning in the Summer
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