Canadian Electrical Industry News Week

March 17, 2017

SaskPower Supervisor Found Guilty of Breaking Safety Rules in Lineman’s DeathA SaskPower supervisor has been found guilty of occupational health and safety violations that contributed to the death of a lineman in 2014, reports the CBC. Kleon Swahn, 45, was killed while repairing a broken high-voltage power line near Wakaw, Saskatchewan.

A provincial court judge found that the supervisor had neither followed safety procedures nor ensured that the line was safe before it was cut. The supervisor was fined $28,000. 

“I found [the supervisor] to be not entirely credible in his attempts to distance himself from the incident, minimize his involvement and not take responsibility for his actions and inactions,” wrote the judge.

In December 2014, the line crew was called out to repair a line break on a high voltage power line. When the crew tried reach the break with a bucket truck, they found it wasn’t tall enough. Swahn was subsequently asked to work on a section of the line that had been grounded and pulled down to the ground. However, a jumper cable hadn't been attached to the line, which would have made the section safe. Swahn picked up the wire with both of his hands. The wire was cut and he was electrocuted.

In his decision, the judge found that an adequate safety plan hadn’t been written up once the circumstances of the job had changed. Although the supervisor argued that SaskPower rules require only a verbal safety meeting, the judge concluded from testimony that the installation of a jumper cable hadn’t been discussed at all, which led to the incident.

The supervisor had told police officers that he believed they had talked about the jumper cable, but another lineman testified that he didn’t remember the safety measure ever being discussed.

“SaskPower requires these tailboard meetings and risk management plans be documented in order to avoid any confusion or conflict over the steps to be taken to manage work risks,” wrote Judge Rybchuk. “The fact Mr. Rowlett chose not to document this meeting affects his credibility and version of events at the second meeting.”

The judge didn’t agree with Rowlett’s assertion that installing a jumper cable was “lineman 101” and workers shouldn’t need to be reminded to do so. “People can, and do, forget,” wrote the judge. “That is the reason why all tasks need to be assessed to identify the risks, especially where the risk is between the life and death of a worker.”

Since Swahn’s death, the crown corporation has brought in a safety improvement program involving supervisors and union representatives.

Read the CBC article: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/saskpower-guilty-safety-rules-death-2014-1.4017272.

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