‘Have a safe day’: Father recalls last words to son before he died at Alberta mill
EDMONTON – A worker was installing a handrail on a tower at the West Fraser Pulp and Paper Mills in Hinton when he became tangled in a piece of equipment and died.
Occupational Health and Safety said the fatality happened on Nov. 23 at around 5 p.m. It said the worker was an employee of Winfield Industrial Sales and Service Ltd.
There is a stop work order where the death happened but the mill is still operational.
Family has identified the worker as 23-year-old Dean Smith.
“My son was 23, he’s a bright, fun-loving, hard working, loved his family, lots of friends. It’s all gone,” said Dean’s dad Kelly, his voice breaking.
“It’s surreal. I’m probably in shock still.”
Kelly Smith said he talked to Dean during his lunch break on Monday, just hours before he was killed.
“It sounded like he was interested in coming home and going out hunting like we usually do when he has slow days and I told him I’d call him after. ‘Have a safe day,’ that was the last thing we said.”
Smith’s family said they were notified of his death by the police.
“We didn’t understand what was going on at first,” said Kelly. “It’s a shock. Why are police coming to your house?”
He said Victim Services has been a good support, but the family is still looking for answers.
“He was on top of the digester actually installing safety handrail when – I guess the outcome of OHS – he got tied up in the coupling to the drive motor and, I understand from his partner that I talked to, there was no disconnect, no emergency shut down, there was no radio communication.”
“There’s a breach of safety protocol here somewhere that needs to be remedied.”
Kelly has been an electrician for 30 years. He said Dean was pursuing a career as a heavy duty mechanic before he was laid off and decided to go into welding. Kelly said he has always stressed the importance of safety with his family – and his crew.
“After I was notified that my son was in a workplace fatality, of course you want to know why? What happened?”
He is urging anyone who feels at risk at their job to say something.
“Don’t be scared to speak up about your safety. You have that right,” said Kelly.
“Why I’m here talking to you is to make sure this doesn’t happen – this very, very preventable death – to make sure no other family has to go through this.”
Dean leaves behind his wife and one-year-old son.
© 2015 Shaw Media