Friends and loved ones are reeling from the death of a young Calgary man and say his death is the kind of incident that is troubling to comprehend.
Jeff Cho was the man who died in a Sept. 19 workplace fatality at LX Hausys Warehouse in northeast Calgary.
Tribute messages continue to pour into Global News, remembering Cho as “one of a kind.”
“Karaoke night will never be the same,” one person posted on Cho’s social media.
“Words can’t describe Jeff. You have to experience him,” said one of Cho’s longtime friend in an email to Global News.
Cho’s friends and loved ones are angry more people won’t get to experience Cho’s warmth and depth of character. They want answers as to what went so terribly wrong.
Cho was crushed by a massive slab of marble while working in the warehouse yard.
Two former LX Hausys employees contacted Global News after learning of his death.
Sunny Sandhu, who said he was fired with no explanation in mid-July, and Mario Mareno, who was terminated on Sept. 1, said they witnessed and documented numerous safety violations, including a lack of protective equipment and little to no certification for those working on or near equipment.
“We had a good relationship. He was a good person,” Mareno said.
Mareno said he warned his bosses about his concerns with Cho’s training.
An email exchange dated July 13 between an HR manager and a supervisor said Mareno was to stay on with the warehouse until Cho got used to his work. The supervisor suspects it would take about a month for Cho to get used to the job.
“I knew something was going to happen because there is no training. You need six to eight months,” Sandhu said.
Cellphone video taken by Mareno showed what he believes is too many marble slabs for A-frame pallets. According to former employees, he slabs weigh hundreds of pounds each.
Another video taken inside the warehouse showed stacks of product exceeding height limits suggested by one of the former workers.
The men provided two videos of a man who they said is a supervisor with the company walking in the warehouse and in the yard near the forklift with flip-flops on his feet.
“You aren’t supposed to wear flip flops ever in the warehouse,” said Sandhu.
Cho’s friends said he, too, expressed concerns before his death, about safety at the company.
“He raised concerns to us how they were hiring untrained people (and) not being trained well,” Tenzen Kalden said in an email to Global News.
Dean Wihnan, a safety scientist with Intactix, said while protective equipment like proper footwear, safety vests or helmets would not have been enough to prevent such catastrophic injuries, he believes it speaks to the company’s overall workplace safety culture.
“Most organizations have policy around PPE (personal protective equipment), and if it’s not being worn and not being enforced by management, that’s usually an organizational issue,” said Wihnan.
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He also said many workplace fatalities and injuries do meet the threshold for a criminal probe, but those investigations are rarely done.
“This has elements of criminal negligence, without knowing all the details,” Wihnan said
“CPS (Calgary Police Service) should, in concert with (Occupational Health and Safety) enter into an investigation to determine whether there are aspects of criminal negligence under the law.”
Global News has reached out to LX Hausys for comment, both by email and in person.
The company has not yet addressed any of the allegations about the lack of safety protocols, instead saying for now that the priorities are the employees, Jeff Cho’s family and the ongoing Occupational Health and Safety investigation.