Coroner's jury recommends 7 steps to improve safety of dump truck drivers

A coroner's jury has come up with seven recommendations to improve the safety of dump truck drivers around stockpiles more than two years after a 67-year-old man was killed in a gravel pit accident in northwestern New Brunswick.

Rear-view cameras among ideas stemming from inquest into 2015 gravel pit death of Valdor Michaud in Drummond

Valdor Michaud, 67, of Drummond, was crushed in a gravel pit accident on July 10, 2015. (O'Regan's Funeral Home)

Dump trucks in New Brunswick should have rear-view cameras and be stopped at least five metres from the edge of a gravel pit or similar operation, according to a coroner's jury.

Those are among the jury's seven recommendations to improve the safety of dump truck drivers following the death of a 67-year-old man in a gravel pit accident in northwestern New Brunswick more than two years ago.

Valdor Michaud was killed of July 10, 2015 when the tar truck he was operating for his brother's company, Ray's Paving Ltd., fell approximately 10 metres into a gravel pit in Drummond.

The married father of three and grandfather of two was crushed.

A coroner's inquest into Michaud's death was held in Edmundston in December and the jury's recommendations were announced by the Department of Justice and Public Safety on Tuesday.

Other recommended amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act include:

  • Workers should ensure that the unloading surface is slightly sloping toward the edge of the pit or stockpile.
  • Workers should ensure that the unloading surface is equal on both sides.
  • Workers should install orange safety cones at least five metres from the edge of the pile.

In addition, a company's occupational health and safety policies and procedures should be read and signed by all employees at least once a year, the jury said.

And WorkSafeNB's Hazard Alert document, "Safe driving techniques around stockpiles," should be included in the policies and procedures of any New Brunswick companies using dump trucks.

The jury recommends workers ensure the unloading surface is equal on both sides and slightly sloping toward the edge of the pile. (CBC)

The Office of the Chief Coroner will forward the recommendations to the appropriate government departments and agencies "for consideration and response," the government release said.

The responses will be included in the chief coroner's annual report for 2017.​

The coroner service is an independent fact-finding agency that may not make any finding of legal responsibility.

Coroner Jérôme Ouellette and the five-member jury selected from the community heard evidence from witnesses to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding Michaud's death.

Slope was 'at best, marginally stable'

WorkSafeNB is "pleased" to see some of the preventive measures outlined in its Hazard Alert being proposed for legislative amendments, spokesperson Beverly Stears said in an email to CBC News on Tuesday. 

"Once WorkSafeNB receives a formal letter from the Chief Coroner outlining the recommendations, we will formally respond outlining our next steps," she said.

"As some recommendations involve legislative amendments, it is important to note that before changes to the [Occupational Health and Safety] Act can occur, stakeholder consultations and review and approval by our board of directors will be required before we submit a recommendation to government for implementation," she added.

WorkSafeNB is trying to raise awareness about safe driving techniques around stockpiles to help prevent further injuries and deaths related to unloading and backing in vehicles or other mobile equipment.

A WorkSafeNB investigation in the days following Michaud's death found the slope where he was dumping was "at best, marginally stable," said Stears, the acting director of communications.

The increase in weight on the ground from the dump truck backing up with a load of material at the crest of the slope "could have been a significant factor in the incident," she said.

Michaud was not wearing a seatbelt either, she added, noting he was not required to legally because the vehicle was being operated off-highway.

WorkSafe did not recommend prosecution

WorkSafeNB's internal accident review committee concluded that while the employer did have a procedure for dumping materials, the procedure did not address the safe distance from the edge and the information was "not readily available" to Michaud, said Stears.

The Crown corporation issued an order to Ray's Paving under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to develop a procedure on safe dumping on top of a stockpile.

Incident and inspection reports did not show a lack of compliance with legislation.- Beverly Stears , WorkSafeNB

"While our recommendations in the wake of this incident are not enforceable, they provide guidance to the employer to improve employee safety," said Stears.

The committee did not recommend prosecution, she said.

"Incident and inspection reports did not show a lack of compliance with legislation," and the employer had a health and safety program.

WorkSafeNB had issued a work-stop order and investigators were on site for at least three days, measuring the slopes of the gravel pit in various areas to determine soil-bearing capabilities, examining equipment and interviewing witnesses.

"WorkSafeNB health and safety officers continue to make employers and operators aware of the issues that resulted in this fatality and advise them on safe operating procedures," said Stears.

Under the Coroners Act, an inquest is held when a worker dies as a result of an accident on the job in a woodland operation, sawmill, lumber processing plant, food processing plant, fish processing plant, construction project site, mining plant or mine, including a pit or quarry.​