Nfld. & Labrador

Forbes Bros., supervisor plead guilty to OHS charges over deaths of 2 workers in 2017

In June 2017, Jared Moffat of Prince Albert, Sask., and Tim McLean of Nipigon, Ont., were killed when the transmission tower they were putting up between Bay d'Espoir and the western Avalon collapsed.
Jared Moffat, left, and Tim McLean, right, were killed in 2017 when a tower collapsed near the Avalon Peninsula community of Come by Chance. (Facebook/GoFundMe)

In 2017, Jared Moffat of Prince Albert, Sask., and Tim McLean of Nipigon, Ont., died while putting up a transmission tower between Bay d'Espoir and the western Avalon.

In a Clarenville courtroom on Thursday, nearly four years later, the company the two men worked for pleaded guilty to three charges under the Newfoundland and Labrador Occupational Health and Safety Act. 

Forbes Bros. has to pay a fine of $125,000, in addition to a 30 per cent victim's surcharge, in relation to the deaths of Moffatt, 34, and McLean, 31, who were killed when the tower fell to the ground.

Those charges include failing to:

  • Ensure that road conditions to the site at the time of the incident did not negatively affect emergency response times.
  • Provide the information, instruction, training, supervision and facilities necessary to ensure the health, safety and welfare of workers.
  • Ensure that occupational health and safety programs included written work procedures appropriate to identify and address hazards and work activity in the workplace.

Four other charges against the company were withdrawn.

Darren Brookes, who was the site foreman on the day of the accident, also pleaded guilty to one charge under the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act, of failing as a supervisor "to ensure, where reasonably practical, the health, safety and welfare of all workers under his supervision."

He has been fined $3,000 and has been ordered to complete a supervisor safety training program within 90 days of sentencing, according to a media release from Forbes Bros. 

A guy-wired-supported steel transmission tower like this one collapsed June 19, 2017, near Come by Chance, resulting in the death of two linemen. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro contracted Forbes Bros. to construct the power transmission line from Bay d'Espoir.  The utility was initially charged with one count of failing to ensure that an employer and workers complied with the OHS Act and Regulations.

However, it was not part of the joint guilty plea that Forbes Bros. and Brookes entered Thursday. 

CBC News asked Hydro, a subsidiary of Crown-owned Nalcor Energy, for comment.

 

"Hydro's top priority remains the safety of all of our employees and contractors. This was a tragic incident, which we take extremely seriously. Our court appearance is currently scheduled for late August. Further information from Hydro will be available at that time," a spokesperson said in a written statement late Friday afternoon. 

Communication breakdown ahead of fatal accident

According to an agreed upon statement of facts, right before the accident, communication that should have happened didn't. 

The transmission tower was no longer supported by all four guy wires, causing it to fall to the ground, killing Moffatt and McLean. 

Communication between the workers on the tower and their supervisor, Brookes, didn't happen "to verify the anchor connection was completed prior to detaching the existing wire from the [transmission tower]," reads the court document. 

While both workers were pronounced dead at the scene, police and ambulance crews were delayed because they couldn't find the road — and when they did, the vehicles got stuck. 

The accident happened just four months after Forbes Bros. workers on a transmission line in Manitoba were injured when a tower collapsed

The tower, which resembles the one in this photo, became unstable due to an issue with the guy-wire and fell to the ground, according to Forbes Bros. in 2017. (Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro)

Forbes Bros. is a North American power line construction company that has 460 employees in Canada. 

Men remembered for 'love of life' and 'very good friend'

In the days after the deaths, the two men were fondly remembered as friendly and outgoing people. 

Moffatt was a father of a young son, according to his obituary. 

"Jared was a force to be reckoned with, a true conversationalist, a lover and a fighter … a true Casanova, a helper, a healer, a father, a son, a brother, an uncle, and a very good friend to many, his infectious laugh will be missed by all," his obituary read.

McLean was married and was a father to three children. 

"He had a love of life and lived every day to the fullest. Always the life of the party, making new friends everywhere he went," read his obituary.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Stephanie Kinsella and Terry Roberts

now