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Excavation director sentenced to jail time for fatal Edmonton trench collapse

A man was trapped under debris at an Edmonton construction site on April 28, 2015. Jessica Kent, Global News

In a rare move, the director of an excavation company has been sentenced to jail time for his role in a trench collapse in Edmonton that killed a contract worker in April 2015.

Sukhwinder Nagra was sentenced to four months behind bars in connection with the death of 55-year-old Brian Frederick Tomyn. He also must pay a $100 victim fine surcharge.

The judge on the case found a fine alone was not sufficient because the victim was “a particularly vulnerable worker,” court documents read. “He was a day labourer who was also on AISH, though this later fact was unknown until Sept. 26, 2017.”

Watch below: Workplace safety is once again under the microscope after a worker died in a fall in Edmonton on Wednesday. At the same time, an employer was being sentenced to jail time for his role in a 2015 workplace death. Fletcher Kent reports.

Click to play video: 'Workplace safety in the spotlight after Edmonton man’s death and legal developments in another death' Workplace safety in the spotlight after Edmonton man’s death and legal developments in another death
Workplace safety in the spotlight after Edmonton man’s death and legal developments in another death – Nov 2, 2017

WATCH: Investigation underway after man buried in trench at Edmonton work site 

On the afternoon of April 28, Tomyn was buried while working on a sewer line near 123 Street and 107 Avenue. He was working as a labourer for a landscaping company that was connecting a new sewer line from the city’s drainage line to a residential home under construction.

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“Four months for a life?” Brian’s brother Shawn Tomyn said. “He showed no remorse whatsoever through the proceedings. The judge saw that and commented on that. It’s just sad.

READ MORE: ‘We just dug until we found him’: Man found dead in collapsed trench 

Nagra was charged with eight counts under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, including failing to protect the health and safety of another worker present, performing work that may endanger the worker or others when he was not competent to perform that work, failing to assess a work site and identify existing or potential hazards before work began and failing to stabilize the soil in an excavation by shoring or cutting back.

Developer Haya Homes Ltd. was charged with six counts and Nagra’s company Sahib Contracting Inc. was charged with seven counts under the OHS Act.

After pleading guilty, Haya Homes was sentenced to two years corporate probation, a $111,250-victim fine surcharge, and $50,000 to the Bissell Centre. After pleading guilty, Sahib Contracting Inc. must pay a $425,000-fine along with a $63,750-victim fine surcharge. The defence is asking for a lower fine.

READ MORE: Charges laid in death of Edmonton worker killed in collapsed trench 

An agreed statement of facts found there was “no shoring in the trench and the edges of the trench were not cut back in any fashion.

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“By all accounts, the trench was extremely unsafe and no worker should have been present in the trench.

“One civilian witness observed that there was no bracing in the trench and that a piece of lattice was being used to access the trench,” read the document.

The statement explained firefighters responding to the collapse had to shore up the trench before they could get in to recover Brian.

The collapse happened at about 5 p.m. and his body was not recovered until 1:50 a.m. Brian’s body was found 3.6 metres below grade.

Shawn said he’s contacted Alberta’s labour minister, urging more action on workplace safety.

“You have to go on but yeah, there’s got to be changes made. The fines that they collect off the offenders, that’s great, but let’s not forget the people who died.”

Shawn said the Bissell Centre would like to create some kind of memorial for Brian. Shawn is grateful but would like to see some kind of memorial that honours everyone who has died on the job.

“I contacted the labour minister and sent a message to her basically saying, ‘You know all those fines that you’re handing out… Why don’t you guys put up a wall on the legislative grounds for every worker who’s died?’

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“While this court case was going on yesterday, a guy died on the job site,” Shawn said.

“Let’s remember them because it’s tough. It’s really tough on the families.”

READ MORE: Worker dies after falling off balcony at Old Strathcona construction site 

He hopes his brother’s death — and other workplace deaths — aren’t just news of the day. Shawn wants every life to be valued and honoured.

“Accidents do happen… We can try to educate everybody to be safe but don’t be afraid to say something. If you clearly see it’s dangerous, don’t be afraid to say no.”

He believes that was the situation with his brother.

“He was in a vulnerable position at the time. He was trying to get back on his feet just like a lot of people at the Bissell Centre — for whatever reason, addiction, alcohol, whatever — they have to eat too… People are scared to say no.”

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