‘Meaningful changes’ needed for crane operator safety in aftermath of collapse: Union

Click to play video: 'Kelowna RCMP recommend charges in deadly crane collapse'
Kelowna RCMP recommend charges in deadly crane collapse
They've been investigating for about two-and-a-half years and tonight's news that police believe criminal negligence was involved in that deadly crane collapse in Kelowna in the summer of 2021. RCMP concluded the lengthy and complex investigation recommending charges be laid, but who is the focus of those charges isn't yet known. – Feb 20, 2024

Information gleaned during a years-long investigation into a fatal Kelowna crane collapse needs to be released sooner than later, says the union representing crane operators.

The RCMP announced Tuesday they’ve concluded their investigation into a July 2021 crane collapse in Kelowna that killed five men and are pursuing a charge of criminal negligence causing death. It’s a significant shift in the public’s understanding of the tragic incident but for those who work in the industry, it’s not enough,  Josh Towsley assistant business manager of IUOE Local 115 said.

“My hope is that now that the RCMP investigation is clearly done and charges are recommended, that WorkSafe will release their report of the incident, that they will call industry stakeholders back to the table to evaluate that report, and that we will start talking about making meaningful changes,” Towsley said.

“From our perspective, what that means is really recognizing the safety-sensitive nature of this work, licensing contractors that do this work, and making sure that the people that work for them have standardized levels of training.”

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Investigation underway after Surrey construction crane collapse'
Investigation underway after Surrey construction crane collapse

While Towsley and the industry members he represents may want to see that report now, and more change, that isn’t expected to happen just yet.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

WorkSafe BC indicated Tuesday that they are not moving ahead with releasing the report until the BC Prosecution Service decides whether the information it received from police will amount to a charge being laid against an, as of yet, unknown entity.

“Although the WorkSafeBC investigation report is not being released, WorkSafeBC has continued to incorporate key learnings about tower crane assembly, disassembly, and repositioning into its ongoing crane safety initiatives,” a WorkSafe representative said.

Towsley said that’s a lost opportunity.

“I believe this province has missed a critical opportunity to be a leader in tower crane safety …. We’ve had now, three accidents over the last two and a half years, one of them with five fatalities,” he said. “This province needs to decide that that’s not going to happen again and that’s not acceptable.”

Story continues below advertisement

While forward momentum on that front may be in the offing, Towsley is pleased with the accountability taking shape.

Click to play video: 'Unions  call for more transparency with crane collapse investigation'
Unions call for more transparency with crane collapse investigation

“I think it’s safe to say that our union and myself, in particular, were hoping that we would get some sort of result like this,” he said. “We’ve seen too many cases in this province of deaths in the industry,” he said, pointing to Sam Fitzpatrick being killed in 2009 at the Kiewit hydroelectric project in Toba Inlet and deaths associated with the mill explosions.

“These were major industrial accidents, people dying and families torn a party and nobody was held accountable. So my hope has always been that there would be a decision that (someone) was criminally negligent, or somebody was responsible for those deaths.”

The morning of July 12, 2021, at a Mission Group construction site in the downtown core of Kelowna, a crane being dismantled crashed to the ground and killed onsite workers Cailen Vilness, Jared Zook, and Patrick and Eric Stemmer. Brad Zawislak, who was working in the building next door, was also killed.


Sponsored content