British Columbia’s workplace safety regulator, WorkSafeBC, finished its investigation on the fatal tug accident that took place at a sawmill on Okanagan Lake in 2017. According to the agency, an engine compartment hatch was unsecured, the person who lost its life was using a non-functioning inflatable life vest, while alcohol was also present on board the ship.
On January 30, 2017, a mill worker was working on a boom boat, at the Tolko Industries sawmill on Okanagan Lake. The ship capsized, and the man was not able to escape. Rescue workers found the vessel and the worker the next morning.
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Commenting on the accident report, WorkSafeBC informed that the hatch to the boom boat’s engine compartment was not fully secured. This fact increased the potential that the boat could flood quickly.
Specifically, taking into consideration the available information, the agency concludes that the boat was swamped by water that filled the engine compartment, leading the boat to sink. Swamping can happen when the front of the boat gets underwater because of a collision with an object or from pushing several logs.
When the ship sank, the worker’s life jacket could have been of assistance, as its design was not buoyant nor automatically inflatable. For this reason, it was unsuitable for the work environment.
In addition, if the man had tried to activate it manually, he would not have been successful, as the pull cord for the inflator was improperly routed, and the PFD inoperative.
What is more, the report found a ‘partially full’ bottle of liquor inside of a backpack on the boat. After testing the contents, the liquid was ab out 40% alcohol. As a result, WorkSafeBC claims that the mill operator had not fully implemented the boat’s alcohol testing regime, which could be a significant factor.
Finally, WorkSafeBC cited Tolko over two violations:
- Not ensuring the health and safety of its workers;
- Not providing its boom boat operators with the right kind of life vests.
As a result, the company has since issued self-inflating vests.