Always Support a Tall Wall

by Toolbox Staff

This letter of apology was written and provided by 938769 Alberta Ltd. and published in agreement with the Alberta Department of Justice and Occupational Health and Safety.

On April 11, 2013, a co-worker was fatally injured on a new home construction site in Priddis, Alberta, when a two-storey wall came down, pinning her underneath.

When we got to work at 7:30 a.m., it was snowing, making the ground soft and muddy. We started the day with a discussion about how we would erect a two-storey wall. We all agreed that lifting the wall manually was the only option as we had tried to get the zoom boom close to the house for the lift but, due to the site not being backfilled and the ground being soft, it kept getting stuck. We determined we could not use wall jacks either as the wall was too tall to make them work.

We talked about how to lift the wall manually and what to do in the event we could not lift it. The crew and I made a plan – if the wall became too heavy, we would step aside and drop the wall on the sawhorses that were already being used to prop up the wall.

We made sure to clean the floor of any materials to ensure there were no tripping hazards before we began the lift. Two co-workers and I began lifting the wall and a fourth worker joined in after she finished moving material clear. About halfway through the lift, the wall became too heavy for us to continue and we all decided to drop the wall on the count of three. I made sure to yell out what was going to happen and everyone confirmed they heard me.
We started the countdown to three and dropped the wall. As the wall fell, I and two co-workers stepped clear. After the wall was down, we realized our other co-worker had not stepped clear and was pinned underneath it.

Immediately after the accident, job procedures were revised, with a greater focus on procedures for lifting tall walls, including never lifting manually without proper machinery and equipment.

Procedures for every job must be read and understood by all contractors and daily hazard assessments sheets must be filled out. We continue with daily task meetings and reviewing safety policies and procedures.

Don’t take things you have done many times for granted. Safety must come first. Don’t get pressured into working on sites that are not ready to be worked on. Always complete a pre-job assessment and follow all procedures on the job. Shortcuts only lead to accidents. Incidents can be prevented by taking the right steps. I am personally thankful for working with the Alberta Construction Safety Association (ACSA) in creating a better company safety plan. The safety plan that we have created will hopefully help others, as it has helped me with more knowledge of safety.

I think the biggest consequence was the loss of life of a co-worker. With the memories of the offence fresh in mind, and knowing the loss the family must still be going through, I am truly heavy-hearted and saddened, and I wish this tragic accident didn’t happen.

I hope that other crews will learn from my mistake, and that this never happens to anyone else. I write this letter to raise awareness of the dangers in residential construction for both framing companies and builders. Do not make the same mistake I did. Everyone’s safety on the job site should not be taken for granted.

Daren McClintock
938769 Alberta Ltd.

On September 15, 2016, 938769 Alberta Ltd. pled guilty to charges under section 2(1)(a)(i) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The resulting sentence to 938769 Alberta Ltd by Alberta Justice was a fine of $100,000 and 18 months’ Corporate Probation.

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