City of Iqaluit fined $50,000 after guilty plea to workplace safety charge
In 2021 incident, worker was injured when wheelbarrow tire exploded
The City of Iqaluit has pleaded guilty to violating Nunavut’s Safety Act in connection with a 2021 incident in which a teenage municipal worker suffered an injury at the city garage.
In court Tuesday, Judge Neil Sharkey fined the city $50,000 for violating section 22.1 of the act, which deals with a failure to follow the Safety Act or failing to comply with the direction of a safety officer.
Seven other charges against the city, also under the Nunavut Safety Act, were stayed.
Court heard the incident occurred July 16, 2021. A worker was injured when a wheelbarrow tire that was being inflated blew up and hit him on the arm and face.
The worker, who was a summer student, was assigned to the office but wasn’t busy at the time so he was sent over to the maintenance garage to do shop cleanup.
At some point, the worker noticed a wobbly tire on the wheelbarrow that was low on air. The worker pumped air into the tire but it exploded, striking him on the arm and face.
There was no one else in the garage, so the worker made his way upstairs and received first aid from another employee, then went to the hospital.
Prosecutor Larry Reynolds said it’s important that when employees move from one type of job to another they get training and supervision so incidents such as this can be prevented.
But, he added, “in this situation, the city has taken responsibility right away.”
“We’re in the view that this is an appropriate penalty, sends a proper message but is not unduly harsh,” Reynolds said.
Sharkey said he was moved by the injured worker’s victim statement, for what he went through with the incident and for what he continues to suffer.
Sharkey noted that as a result of the incident, the city has implemented multiple measures to improve workplace safety.
“It seems you’ve gone from a culture of indifference in this area to one of clear attention,” Sharkey said.
He said the focus of the changes appears to involve procedures for individual training of new employees and supervisory policies for overseeing what workers are doing.
Measures include a policy for younger workers, forms for every time a worker changes supervisor, and the creation of supervisor training courses.
Teresa Haykowsky, the lawyer representing the city, added new measures include training workers in safely inflating tires before they are asked to perform that task on the job.
The city’s training bundle costs $6,000 per year and is included in its budget, she said.
Sharkey said that with the changes that were made, “the chances of this [workplace incident] happening again, are pretty slim.”
In imposing the $50,000 penalty against the city, Sharkey said a fine must be “more than a slap on the wrist” but that the court must also be mindful of the city’s ability to pay the fine without hampering its ability to function.
The city will have 60 days to pay the fine.