TORONTO – Ontario’s largest union is demanding a coroner’s inquest into the workplace death of one its members, 25-year old Brodie Schwartz, a Westario Power worker who suffered a fatal electrocution in September 2010. The circumstances that led to his tragic death need to be investigated to protect electrical workers across the province, says Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario.
“On the eve of the International Day of Mourning, the least we can do for Brodie, his family and his co-workers is ensure that nothing like this ever happens again,” said Hahn. “Brodie was working to keep his community safe and communities across Ontario need to be assured that the workers who keep the power on are also safe on the job.”
Schwartz, a young husband and father, died while replacing an insulator damaged during a thunderstorm in Port Elgin, Ontario. A ministry of Labour investigation found the workers did not have the information about the station that they needed in order to perform their work safely.
Last week, the Ontario Court of Justice imposed fines totalling $137,500 on Westario Power.
“Now that the initial investigations have been completed, it is time for a full coroner’s inquest that can present broad recommendations to prevent accidents in the future,” said Hahn. “We know electrical workers at utilities across Ontario are under pressure to work longer hours, with less support.”
CUPE is asking for the coroner’s inquest to ensure that workers are given adequate training and have the full information needed to work safely in power substations. An Inquest could also determine if other issues, including those relating to workload, may lead to unsafe working conditions in other public utilities.
“Nothing can bring Brodie back, and on this day in particular his sacrifice to keep our community safe is on all our minds,” says Mark O’Leary, president of CUPE Local 255.
“The fine by the Ontario Court of Justice is a message to our employer, but across Ontario, we need to do more to protect electrical workers. We owe it to Brodie, his family and ourselves.”
For more information, please contact:
President, CUPE Ontario
President, CUPE Local 255