Farm accident results in $50,000 fine

A Carberry-area potato farm has been fined nearly $50,000 following an investigation into a serious farm accident on Sept. 18, 2010.

The 15-year-old girl, a seasonal worker at ShellMark Farms Ltd., had attempted to straddle a moving conveyor belt by placing her foot on the north-side lip of the conveyor when she lost her balance. She fell onto the moving conveyor and was pulled under the metal brace for the conveyor’s electric motor. She sustained serious injuries, including a fractured pelvis and sacrum.

Workplace Safety and Health officials recommend prosecution if their investigations determine the employer did not have appropriate safeguards in place or that employees had not been properly trained.

In this case, the company failed to provide a system for workers to safely access either side of the conveyor belt, according to a government press release.

The employer pled guilty on June 28 of this year to charges under Section 4(1)(A) of the Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health Act of failing to ensure that a worker utilized procedures for working in close proximity to a conveyor. The company received a fine of $48,050.

Reached last week by phone, a spokesperson for ShellMark Farms declined to comment.

Publication of the amount of the fine and the employer’s name is part of a new provincial policy to provide more information to the public about workplace safety enforcement efforts.

Farm safety officials say they’re starting to hear of more charges and heftier fines laid against farmers right across the country.  

“I hate to say it, but it’s a bit of a wake-up call,” said Marcel Hacault, executive director of the Winnipeg-based Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA).

“Farmers have been under the radar or kind of left alone by the province. That’s not unique to Manitoba. We’re seeing, as a national association, more and more farms fined because of non-compliance.”

CASA continues to urge farmers to develop written safety plans — both to make the workplace safer and to protect the employer if an accident occurs. But a recent survey conducted by CASA shows only about 15 per cent of farms have a written plan.

The province of Manitoba is trying to make more farmers aware of preventive measures to improve workplace safety and ensure they comply with Workplace Safety and Health regulations, said Jeff Shaw, Manitoba’s provincial farm safety co-ordinator.

The 2010 incident at Carberry occurred just as potato producers were starting to develop a sector-specific farm-safety plan. That initiative is ongoing and potato growers are working hard to become compliant with all regulations and to ensure all of its member farms have written safety plans, said Chad Berry, president of Keystone Potato Producers Association and a Cypress River farmer.

“There’s been quite a few training courses and seminars put on,” he said.

About the author

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Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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