New Brunswick

Company fined $50K in worker's death at Fredericton hotel construction site

A construction company has been fined $50,000 in connection with the death of a worker at the Hilton Garden Inn construction site in Fredericton two years ago.

Steven Lutes, foreman for Lead Structural Formwork, fell 4 storeys to his death in January 2017

Construction worker Steven Lutes, 42, died onsite after falling from the fourth storey of the Hilton Garden Inn in Fredericton on Jan. 30, 2017. (Cobb's Funeral Home)

A construction company has been fined $50,000 in connection with the death of a worker at the Hilton Garden Inn construction site in Fredericton two years ago.

Steven Lutes, a foreman for Lead Structural Formwork Ltd., fell about four storeys (12.5 metres or 41 feet) to his death on Jan. 30, 2017.

Lutes, 42, of Upper Coverdale, was a married father of two.

Lead Structural Formwork pleaded guilty last fall to a charge under the Occupational Health and Safety Act of failing to ensure the fall-protection system was used.

On Wednesday, provincial court Judge Julian Dickson said the Moncton company's infraction was "a contributing factor" in Lutes's death.

The company, which was contracted to do the concrete form work and superstructure of the hotel, should have ensured Lutes was following safety practices, he said.

Although Lutes had full fall-arrest training and was wearing a safety harness, he had attached his safety rope to his tool belt rather than part of the concrete structure, which didn't have walls at the time, the courtroom heard.

A piece of temporary guardrail had also been removed to bring in a concrete form at the Queen Street construction site, so there was nothing to prevent his fall when he lost his balance.

A piece of guardrail had been removed to bring in a concrete form at the construction site on Queen Street, the court heard on Wednesday. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

The company's lawyer, Dale Briggs, declined to comment outside the courthouse, other than to say "it's very difficult for them, as it is for the family, as it is for everyone."

Lutes's brother-in-law Simon Jones commended the judge for his "measured and appropriate decision" but said the fine amount didn't matter to the family.

"Whether it be $1 or $100,000 or $1 million, it won't bring Steven back to us," he said.

"We grieve Steven every single day. We feel his loss every single day," said Jones. "His kids, Madison and Riley, they've lost their dad. They were eight and 10 when this happened.

It doesn't matter whether you're a CEO or a junior guy on the job — every single person working has to take safety seriously.- Simon Jones, brother-in-law

"And we don't want anyone, any other family to go through what we've gone through or what we're continuing to go through."

The family hopes the case will serve as a warning to all companies and all employees about the importance of workplace safety, said Jones.

"It doesn't matter whether you're a CEO or a junior guy on the job — every single person working has to take safety seriously," he said.

"If you see something that's wrong, that isn't safe, stop, say something, and get it corrected. If it takes 10 minutes to fix the problem and make the work site safe, great, If it takes an hour, a day, or a week — you potentially save someone's life."

Simon Jones, brother-in-law of the late Steven Lutes, said the family continues to grieve his loss and wants everyone to take safety seriously. (CBC)

Lead Structural Formwork was also fined $10,000 Wednesday for a second unrelated charge of failing to ensure someone using a hoisting apparatus is competent or under supervision. 

Three weeks after Lutes's death, a crane struck a worker and broke his jaw, the courtroom heard.

The eight-storey hotel opened in August 2018. It originally was scheduled to be complete by late 2017.

Lead Structural Formwork was contracted by the general contractor Lindsay Construction.

Aquilini Properties owns the site.

The Hilton Garden Inn in Fredericton, located next to the Fredericton Convention Centre, opened in August 2018. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

With files from Catherine Harrop