Worker died after contracting COVID-19
Date of incident: April–May 2021
Notice of incident number: 2021140710005
Employers: Tree planting companies (2; employer of the worker, and prime contractor)
A worker who was part of a tree-planting crew, and who rode to and from the cutblock in a vehicle cohort with one other worker, completed his contract with the tree-planting firm. In his last week and a half with the crew, a number of his co-workers had developed symptoms of COVID-19, and some of them were diagnosed with the disease. Later, the worker himself came down with symptoms of COVID-19. About two weeks after his last day on the job, he was found deceased.
- Date and location of exposure to COVID-19 virus unknown. The BC Coroners Service reported that the cause of the worker’s death was COVID-19. The date and location of his exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19, which led to his illness with COVID-19, were not determined in this investigation. The health authority that oversaw the employer’s workplaces in the region the cutblock was in confirmed that nine other workers of the employer contracted COVID-19.
- Possible pre-symptomatic transmission of COVID-19 in workplace. The virus that causes COVID-19 may have entered the employer’s workplace and been inadvertently transmitted throughout the workplace. Although this hypothesis was examined in great detail, the investigation was unable to confirm it. The transmission vector for the disease remained unidentified.
Other safety issues
- Potentially inadequate hazard identification and risk assessment. The employer did not have an effective process for identifying hazards, evaluating the associated level of risk, and implementing control measures. The employer recognized exposure to the virus as a hazard for its workers and took some steps to control the related risks. However, the controls it put in place may have been inadequate to effectively mitigate the risks arising from the hazard.
- Safe work procedures not consistently followed. The employer had safe work policies and procedures related to COVID-19. However, the investigation found that they were not consistently followed.
- Potentially inconsistent training. Workers gave varying accounts of the training on COVID-19 policies and procedures they received from the employer. In some cases their testimony did not correlate with the training documentation the employer provided to investigators.
- Potentially inconsistent supervision. Interviews with some workers indicated that supervisors did not adequately explain or consistently enforce safe work procedures (SWPs) for preventing transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. As a result, the level of supervision the employer provided was not sufficient to ensure the health and safety of its workers.
- Potentially inadequate oversight by prime contractor. The prime contractor, which subcontracted the work of tree planting to the employer, did not review the employer’s COVID-19 safety plan. The prime contractor lacked a process that would enable it to ensure that the SWPs in the plan were adhered to in its workplaces.